Dads & Depression: The Recap

“…in some ways, depression made me a better soldier.” ~ Dad & Depression attendee

On  Saturday, June 24, 2017, Speak Away the Stigma held it’s first event, Dads & Depression.  It was held at the Cumberland County Public Library, downtown Fayetteville, NC.  Three mental health professionals were invited to speak and educate the attendees on how depression looks differently in men vs. women, coping skills for men, and how Dad’s depression affects children.  Not only were the speakers informative, they engaged the audience, made them laugh, and integrated real-life scenarios into the conversations to ensure they were relatable to the audience.

Richale R. Reed was the first speaker and after a brief statement about how mental illness had impacted her own family at an early age, she turned her attention to the men in the audience.  “Depression doesn’t look a whole lot different in men”, she stated before she asked the men to share what Depression had been like for them.  Three men stood up and shared a piece of their story, and that was unexpected.  Anger, isolation, and a FullSizeRenderchange in sleep patterns were some words used. In this town full of soldiers and military pride it was thought-provoking when a Veteran admitted, “…in some ways depression made me a better soldier“.  He went on to discuss how when he was no longer a soldier he almost felt he had no purpose.  Richale then discussed how stress can lead to depression, why awareness and your words matter, and why deciding how you want to deal with depression is an important decision that should be made with the help of a therapist.

Travis Andrews was the second speaker.  He too agreed that stress can lead to depression, stating that “...no one was born saying I’m going to be depressed or I am choosing this.”  Travis discussed depression and the single dad as well as coping skills, and he educated the attendees on how family relationships, dysfunction in the home, and adjusting to changes increases stress levels.  Travis asked the audience to define “a man“, and touched on how trying to live within society’s definition does more harm than FullSizeRender_1good.  He also pointed out when men have issues they will often turn to men around them for advice, which he likened to “getting back surgery for a broken arm.”   Why not enlist the help of a professional stranger Travis asked, explaining your most troubling and difficult times should be discussed with someone who won’t judge you, who is bound by confidentiality and whose only interest is helping you resolve your issues.  Also, physical activity was one of the top ways Travis suggested Dad’s cope with stress, stating that simply going for a walk does wonders for the brain.

Joanna Nunez was the final speaker.  Her topic, how Dads depression affects the children, was of particular interest to many in the audience.  Anger, isolation and sleep patterns came up again and Joanna stated that it is common for adults to carry the pain of Dad being angry all of the time or the feelings of being ignored when Dad isolates FullSizeRender_2himself from the family.  She gave a reminder that children not only hear what you say but they also emulate your behavior, so it is important to “…not just discuss behavior but feelings as well.”  Joanna and a dad from the audience role played different reactions children have to “Dad’s voice” and she discussed how “..a child’s reaction tells a lot about the about the parent”.  One piece of information Joanna presented that was a shock to many people is that the effects of Dad’s depression on children were not studied until 2011, studies prior to that centered around only the Mom.  While the studies with dads may be new, the fact that children can be predisposed to mental illness if mom or dad has a diagnosis is well documented.  Joanna suggested that Dads take the time to remember what is fun for them and do those activities.

So what do you do if there is a man in your life that may need some help?  Richale, Travis, and Joanna all agreed that focusing on dad’s behavior is the best way to suggest help.  Statements like “You are angry so see a therapist”, are not likely to be successful.  Instead, bring attention to constant yelling or the change in sleeping patterns,  ask what could be causing the behaviors, and suggest talking to a someone may be a good idea.   Dads are often a child’s first friend and the first person they look up to.  If you are a dad or know a dad that may be depressed reach out to them and to see if they need to talk.  Six million men are affected by depression every year so if you are one of them, rest assured you are not alone.

Psychology Today, your health care provider or even your primary care doctor are some places you can find a therapist in your area. Follow @SpeakAwaytheStigma on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter to find out about our next event!


“Mental Health Advocacy is my life’s work.” ~ Dr. Cindy T. Graham

 

Why did I choose mental health? My decision to become a psychologist began with my love for fashion design. I know, I know…the two don’t seem to go together. Well, as long as I can remember I wanted to pursue a career in the fashion industry. Since I stopped growing at 5’4” tall at 10 years old, my dream of becoming a model was ended quite early on. “If I can’t model, I can surely design.” I always had a knack for needle and thread so this made sense. Most of my doodling during my middle school years were sketches of dresses, blouses, bathing suits, skirts. At this point you are probably thinking, “Well why did you shift to psychology?” The answer is simple: Princeton University. The only thing I wanted more than going into the fashion industry was to go to Princeton University…and Princeton did not have anything remotely close to a fashion design major. Becoming a psychologist was third on my list of career choices behind being a model and a fashion designer.

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Find Dr. Graham on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and YouTube  @cindytgrahamphd

Why did I continue on with mental health as a career? Many people choose a career as a child but then abandon that dream at some point in their process of maturity. This goal of becoming a psychologist was rooted in genuine intrigue and fascination with human behavior. I have always been interested in social studies (the study of human cultures and societies) and science (the study of the world through experimentation). Psychology is defined by Merriam-Webster as “1: the science of mind and behavior; 2a: the mental or behavioral characteristics of an individual or group; 2b: the study of mind and behavior in relation to a particular field of knowledge or activity.” In this way, psychology is the perfect blending of the studies of science and human society. Not to mention I’ve always been interested in interpersonal interactions. As a child I was always listening to adult conversations and marveling at the ways in which people told stories and reacted to those stories. I was eager to know about how people handled different situations in their lives. Also, I was the one in my friend group that everyone would talk to about the problems in their lives…and about 90 percent of the time my advice was well received. Hey, nobody’s perfect.

Why did mental health advocacy become my passion? My parents immigrated to the United States from Haiti so I am a first generation American. As is the case with many Caribbean cultures the expectation in Haitian families is that children will grow up to become one of three types professionals: a lawyer, an engineer, or a medical doctor. Psychology tends to be frowned upon as a profession. I never understood why this was, but this experience in part led me to want to help others become more aware of the benefits of psychotherapy. Then in college I had my first experience working in the psychology field, as a behavioral therapist for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Our interventions led to positive changes for the children including skill acquisition, increased interaction with others, and decrease in behavior problems (like tantrums). Being a part of a team of individuals who worked with children diagnosed with ASD solidified in my mind that mental health treatment and advocacy was what I would be devoting my professional life to. Almost 20 years after my first experience working in the psychology field, it is evident there continues to be much stigma both in the United States and internationally that surrounds mental health despite the obvious positive outcomes for pursuing such services. I feel compelled to be one of those voices advocating for the benefits of mental health services.

Why didn’t you major in psychology at Princeton and then attend a fashion school for an advanced degree? Twelve-year-old me did not realize this was an option at the time. Quite frankly, I’m glad that I didn’t. Mental health advocacy is my life’s work. But yes, I do draw sketches every now and again.

If you are in need of Dr. Graham’s services, please contact her at

Waypoint Wellness Center

1190 Winterson Road, Suite 160
Linthicum, Maryland 21090

I Am Solid She’s Cupcakes & Conversations: The October Edition

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Cupcakes & Conversations in an event in support of  I Am Solid She’s campaign: “Breaking Barriers to Silence Stigma…One Conversation at a Time”.  The goal of this campaign is “to encourage open dialogue about mental health which creates a platform for women to share stories, information, and empowerment through conversation.

The most recent Cupcakes & Conversation was held this past Saturday, October 22, 2016, at the Myers Park Wellness Center in Charlotte, NC.  The topic:  Silently Suffering…Can You Hear My Cry?”  The guest speaker was Dr. Arloishia Israel, and she spoke with total transparency about living with a chronic illness and how that led to her depression.  Dr. Israel discussed how at she had to accept that she had Rheumatoid Arthritis in her THIRTIES!!  She as well as many other people only know older people to diagnosed with this condition, so she had her husband began to educate others, beginning with their own family. Everyone seemed to appreciate the transparency with which Dr. Israel spoke, because it is not common to hear such honesty when discussing mental health or chronic illnesses, especially  in the Black community.  The attendees were also educated on how chronic illnesses can lead to depression and that depression often occurs in cancer, Parkinson’s and heart attack patients.  Often times people are so focused on the physical healing that little to no thought is given to the mental well-being.  One word that this therapist, wife, mother, sister and daughter had to learn to use was “No” and it wasn’t easy.  Dr. Israel shared moments when her hands were extremely swollen  or when she wasn’t able to stand up long enough to sing one song in church, people still continued to ask so much of her.  She discussed how she had to set boundaries and prioritize because if she didn’t she would not have the energy to put into her own well-being.  Through medication, a therapist, the support of her family and prayer Dr. Israel is doing much better and although she still battles with RA she was able to stand in heels and share her story!  The comments and questions from the attendees’ showed that many were deeply impacted by Dr. Israel’s story.   Read More


@KrisNichole Celebrates Her Life Anniversary!

The Pain.   God Saving Me.  Me walking to become the me GOD had planned

When you first look at these pictures of  Kris you may see a beautiful young Black woman.  In speaking to Kris, you will sense she is sweet, intelligent and kind.  What you won’t see are the scars that are healing, from several suicide attempts. (Yes there were several)  Kris had been diagnosed with depression, sever panic attacks and anxiety.  She has been admitted to what she refers to as a “Psych Prison.” Dealing with all of the things that life can throw at us is difficult.  Dealing with all of these things while suffering in silence with mental illness can take a toll on even the strongest person. On August 11, 2011 there was another suicide attempt, however after this one Kris made a decision to fight and fight Read More


The BEST Ways to be Happy in 2015!

Happiness in 2015

1. Let go of expectations– A lot of times we don’t do something or ask for something because we believe that we know what the result will be.  How many of us say “Oh I know what he/she will say” or “I already know how this meeting will go”? None of us have a crystal ball, so we don’t know for certain how something will play out.  Remember, the answer will always be NO if you don’t ask and you will NEVER have what you want if you don’t at least try!

2.  Get Support and a Support System– As much as some of us (yes me included) hate asking for help, we all need it at some point.  Asking for help is not a sign of weakness.  It’s interesting that most people who hate asking for help, are the first ones to offer help to others.  Let other’s help you, it makes them feel good to do so.  Also, asking others for help maintains your support system.  Keep in contact with people, no matter if they are near or far, you don’t want to only reach out to someone when you need something.

3.  SWEAT!– Although this can be found on every “new year, new you” list, it is for a good reason.  A good workout does wonders for the mind and body. It has been proven that endorphins are released when you workout, and they help fight stress.  After a good workout your may feel physically tired, but mentally the weight of the day is gone!

4.  Change & Adapt– We are creatures of habit, and the most difficult thing can be  adapting to change.  As our environment changes, we should too.  There is so much that is out of our control, the one thing we can control is how we respond and adjust to the changes that happen around us.  Be open to change, you’ll see it’s not so bad.

5.  Respect YOUR Own Privacy– In this age of social media it is very easy to “over-share”.  Be mindful with what you share because you are sharing  it with the WORLD!  It is OK to wait to make announcements, or not to make any at all.  Letting associates, or even strangers in on your life isn’t a requirement.  People can be judgmental, there is no need to worry about what strangers or old friends from high school or college think.  Only certain people truly care about the ups and downs of your life, and it’s OK to only share and celebrate certain moments with those people. Read More


NAMI Walks Atlanta 2014

On Saturday November 1 NAMI Walks Atlanta took  place in Piedmont Park, in Atlanta, GA.  Speak Away the Stigma formed a team and solicited donations.  A BIG THANK YOU to Qiana Leonard, Futuera Patterson, & Tiffany Waits for walking with me and supporting an organization I support.  We solicited donations, and I am proud to say that our team goal was $500.00, but we raised $615.00 from 23 generous supports!  Please take a few minutes to read about why The National Alliance on Mental Illness (aka NAMI) is a great organization.

Informative
When I first got the courage to look up information on mental illness www.nami.org was one of the first websites I found. (I use the word courage because reading about what some mentally ill people go through on a daily basis isn’t easy, when a loved one is going through it)  The NAMI website has information and statistics about many different illnesses. It is easy to read and understand, and is a great place to start learning about mental illness.

Virtual Advocacy
When I want to know what is going on with mental health advocacy, I can go to www.nami.org. No matter if it is a new piece of legislation, Criminal Justice and mental health, Mental Healthcare, and advocacy information by state, NAMI has information about it.  There is a “You Are Not Alone” section that encourages individuals to share their story in hopes of inspiring others.

Support Groups
If you are someone living with a mental illness, a school or health professional or just someone who wants to learn more about mental health, NAMI has a group for you!  The Family to Family class was the first time I was able to speak openly about having a family member with a mental ill and knew that my feelings were understood.  I cried, I laughed, I learned, I met people I could openly talk about dealing w/my loved one without shame.  Three things I took away from the NAMI Family to Family class: 1.  That mental illness can affect ANYONE.  The class had a former college president, whose mentally ill son had recently moved  back home, a woman whose brother had been suffering from mental illness since she was a child and a grandmother whose grandson had just had his first episode.  2.  That there is hope.  One of the instructor’s daughters has schizophrenia, and she was in a period of recovery.  She spoke to the class, and I couldn’t help but believe that anyone with a mental illness may be able to live an independent life with treatment and support.  3. The desire to do more.  I have always wanted to give back to those in need.  After this class and reading about mental illness, I know there is a need for more people to to educated on mental health and mental illness to help erase the stigma associated with it.  There is also a need for funding for mental health care, and I want to somehow make a difference.

In addition to mental illness and mental health awareness, Speak Away the Stigma hopes to be able to help pay for medication or therapist visits for those who cannot afford to get help.  One of my goals is to speak about shedding the shame I had, having a mentally ill family member, dealing with my own depression and taking care of myself before I attempt to take care of anyone else.

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surviving schizophrenia

At about the age of 13 I found out my mother’s diagnosis, it was Schizophrenia. I was reading through some court papers, that I wasn’t supposed to have  been reading, and saw it: “…… has been diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia”. I can’t recall exactly how I felt reading it, but I do know I was a bit relived.  For the past 5-6 years I knew my mom wasn’t OK, but I didn’t know what was wrong with her.  I didn’t know why she always heard voices, I didn’t know why she would get so angry when we told her we didn’t see the things that she saw.  I didn’t know why my mother didn’t hug us or tell us that she loved us.  I didn’t understand why she thought the breakfast we made for her on mother’s day, had poison or spit in it.

No one talked to us about why my mom was in and out of the hospital, every couple of years. No one in my family told me my mother had Schizophrenia, I read it in court papers.  Whenever I had a chance , I would try to find out more information about the illness, but at my age I didn’t understand what I read, so I just stopped.  I just accepted that is what my mother had, and to me, she was uncaring, unstable, irresponsible, and angry. 

Despite my feelings, I was always grateful for the values she instilled in us at a young age.  During the years, when her recovery periods were short, we were able to still take care of ourselves.  We knew how to get ourselves off to school, cook for ourselves and do our school work to maintain good grades.  I credit that not only to my mother, but also to my grandparents, and the grace of God.  It would be almost two decades before I would be able to separate the symptoms of the  illness from my mom.  She was not the illness.  She was just the opposite.  During her periods of her recovery, she was a different woman, and I had to learn to remember the confident, hard-working, big-hearted, loving, smart, and somewhat stubborn woman she will always be. Read More


A GIRL with….

OCD

T.V. shows often imitate real life.  It isn’t often that real mental health issues are worked into a storyline.  However, Lena Dunham, creator, writer and star of the HBO series GIRLS, made OCD a part of Hannah’s (Lena’s character on the HBO series) story.  The revelation that Hannah had been diagnosed with OCD at a young age, in my opinion, was a celebratory moment.   Hannah is a character that many fans love, and she has had moments that many of us can relate to. By adding a mental illness to Hannah’s story, it gave a different reality to the illness; a reality that says OCD can affect your co-worker, your child, your best friend.

Lena speaks openly about living with OCD since she was a young child. Take a minute to review what she says in interviews with NBC News, US Magazine and NY Daily:

http://www.nbcnews.com/health/mental-health/why-lena-dunham-cant-just-talk-her-way-out-ocd-n197061

http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-news/news/lena-dunham-diagnosed-with-ocd-at-age-9-meditates-to-stay-calm-2013910

http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/gossip/lena-dunham-reveals-facing-ocd-excerpt-memoir-article-1.1918720

She also discusses it in her new book Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’e “Learned”.  The book has gotten great reviews and is said to be “…Thoughtful, hilarious, and exquisitely-written, Dunham’s memoir is like reading your quirky big sister’s diary.” –Brittany Pirozzolo (Amazon.com)

Information on OCD from The National Institute of Mental Health (link below)

Obsessions: Unwanted thoughts, ideas  or images that won’t go away.

Compulsions: Behaviors you feel you must carry out repeatedly, sometimes for hours.

A person with OCD will feel an overwhelming urge to repeat certain rituals (compulsions) to try and control their thoughts.

It is possible for OCD symptoms to show at any age, however most often they begin between the ages of 10 to 12 OR between the ages of 18 to 23; there have been symptoms in children as young as 4 years old.

OCD is believed to be linked to the parts of the brain that control fear and anxiety; stress and environmental factors may play a role also. 

Approx. 2.2 million American adults are affected by OCD, and men and women seem to be affected equally.

Common Obsessions

Frequent thoughts  of violence or harming a loved one

(It is my understanding that while they have thoughts or images of harming a loved one, THERE IS NO DESIRE TO CARRYOUT THE ACT!  In fact these thoughts and images frighten the individual.  They don’t know why they are having these thoughts, when they don’t want to harm anyone, and this usually leads them to a compulsion such as counting or repeating phrases.)

Constantly thinking about performing sex acts the person dislikes OR Constantly having thoughts prohibited by religious beliefs

(Because the thoughts and ideas they are having are things they do not like or go against what they know to be correct they are often distressed and have high levels of anxiety bc they don’t know why they are having the  thoughts and images)

Germs and Dirt, Intruders, & Safety

These may seem like normal things to be concerned about, and they are, but the frequency that OCD suffers thing about these things can be disruptive to their daily lives.  Not only do they have the thoughts to deal with , but the compulsive behavior that comes along with it. For someone that has an obsession with safety may check, double and triple check the iron is off before they leave for work.  Then they lock the door, but unlock it to go back in an check the iron.  Get to the car, but the thought that the iron may still be on is in their head-even though they will admit they checked several times they drive away without having checked one more time.  There is still a sting chance they will turn back around once on the road, to check the iron again. 

Get more information here: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/index.shtml

Also check out the International OCD Foundation (http://iocdf.org/) for more information, to find out how you can get help, and how you can get involved.


MIAW 2014~Mental Illness vs Mental Health

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In 1990, the United States Congress designated the first full week of October as “Mental Illness Awareness Week”!

Since 1990??  Over 20 years ago?? Unless you are looking for mental illness or mental health information specifically, or you are in the mental health field, you may have never heard of it.

The goal of Speak Away the Stigma is to not only to encourage those who have been affected by a mental illness to speak openly about it, but it is to also bring awareness on the various mental illnesses and the importance of taking care of your mental health.  One question I had when I first began reading more about mental illness was “What is the difference between ‘Mental Illness’ and ‘Mental Health’?”  When you search one, you see results on both.  I have also been asked by a few people  about the difference, and this was my answer (which I always preface with I am not doctor, nor am I mental health professional; this is just the way I look at it): Mental health is about having a healthy mind, just like how physical health is about having a healthy body.  With all of the things your body goes through, it requires some maintenance to keep it healthy; your mind is no different.  Traumatic events, sudden changes, death, LIFE IN GENERAL, happens and these things may affect your mind, and some “mental maintenance” may be necessary.

Mental Illness can be the result of not taking the time for “mental maintenance”, there could be a genetic predisposition, or it could be a combination of the two. (Again I am not a medical or mental health professional, this is information I have read and discussed with mental health professionals over years)  For example, the chances of having Hypertension, Diabetes, and Heart Disease can be increased a result of not taking care of yourself physically,  a genetic predisposition or a combination of the two. The chances of being diagnosed with Schizophrenia, Depression, and Bipolar can be increased by certain factors as well.  Many of us know if Cancer or Heart Disease runs in our family, but do you know if ADHD or Autism runs in your family?  Take some time to speak about your family’s mental health history, was anyone affected by mental illness?

Take care of your mind.  Take care of your body.  Take care of one other.