By Katherine Zimmerman, NAMI-UW President (2022-2024)
Taking care of your mental health has become crucial throughout the past few unprecedented years. As the increase of those affected with mental illness has become more apparent, it has become even more important to have the proper resources to accommodate growing demands for mental health services. However, the mental health profession has only just begun to respond to the world’s efforts for diversity and inclusion, leading individuals from varied cultural and ethnic backgrounds underrepresented. The lack of diversity within the mental health profession has created adverse effects for minorities working in the mental health field. These problems have prompted the additional development of inclusive mental health services to counter mental health stigma related to marginalized groups.
Due to the lack of diversity within the mental health profession, Black individuals within the profession are more likely to experience microaggressions, leading to a decline in Black mental health professionals. A qualitative study of Black faculty working within counseling and counseling psychology programs found microaggressions were commonly perceived, such as feelings of invisibility/hypervisibility, receiving inadequate mentoring, and difficulties determining whether discrimination was either race or gender-based (Constantine, Smith, Redington, & Owens, 2008). Microaggressions can cause marginalized individuals to feel less motivated to stay within the field and increase the risk for mental health issues. Likewise, within higher education, there is an underrepresentation of female faculty members of color and Black faculty members causing their numbers to decline possibly due to structural racism which is ingrained in many university structural systems (Constantine et al., 2008). The underrepresentation of marginalized groups within the mental health profession is harmful to disempowered individuals wanting to go into the field and has an influence on the lack of diversity within the mental health profession.
Multicultural counseling competence (MCC) is a crucial skill for individuals to possess within the mental health profession; however, a lack of diversity has caused a deficit in this skill throughout the field. In 2004, about 80% of psychology doctoral students were White, even though research suggested racial/ethnic minority counselors had significantly higher levels of MCC than White counselors (Spanierman, Poteat, Wang, & Oh, 2008). Since most psychology doctoral students are White, lack of diversity continues to be problematic for the mental health profession. This lack of diversity is hazardous since White professionals have lower MCC levels which lead to an MCC deficit within the overall field and causes individuals from varied backgrounds to be underrepresented in mental health services.
The negative outcomes created by the lack of diversity within the mental health field have affected important aspects of treatment due to a lack of cultural understanding. To properly diagnose and treat mental illness, mental health professionals must be aware of cultural influences on individuals. However, racial and gender biases are continuing to prevent individuals in need of mental health services from receiving proper care. Garb (2021) stated, that racial and gender biases occur in the diagnosis of conduct disorder, autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, mood disorders, as well as antisocial and histrionic personality disorders. The biases observed within psychological diagnosis are harmful towards destigmatizing mental health within marginalized groups; due to minorities and women being considered marginalized groups, it’s important to acknowledge how racial and gender biases overlap in psychological diagnosis. Moreover, the way symptoms of mental illness are expressed within different cultures also appears to have a significant effect on the process of receiving mental health treatment.
Dana Givens, a writer for the New York Times, explained various first-hand experiences dealing with mental health stigma as a Black woman. She stated, “Growing up in a predominantly Black community in Harlem, therapy was stigmatized as something for people who could not handle challenges.” (Givens, 2020). These potentially harmful cultural influences play a large part in one’s decision to seek mental health services. Shaun J. Fletcher, who researches health disparities among African American men, due to American culture, how African Americans “deal with mental health, or choose not to, is based on how [they] are socialized” (Givens, 2020). American culture has taught Black communities they do not have the privilege of being vulnerable like other communities—reinforced by the evident racial imbalance between mental health professionals and the general population.
The need for diversity within the mental health profession has become increasingly visible due to recent research on how prejudice and discrimination impact one’s mental and physical health. Discrimination is internalized throughout one’s life and correlates with various poor health markers/outcomes and children who experience discrimination have higher rates of mental illness (depression, ADHD, etc.) (Khullar, 2017). The lack of diversity within the mental health field creates unequal social conditions which foster unequal health outcomes for marginalized groups due to a lack of proper representation in mental health services. This leads to individuals not receiving treatment for mental health facilitated by a serious public health crisis experienced by communities who deserve better mental health services.
Currently, efforts to develop more inclusive and diverse mental health services have become the mental health field’s newest priority as they work on strategies to accommodate marginalized groups. There has been an increase in the development of digital companies to assist people in finding a therapist who is skilled and culturally competent. It can be extremely difficult for people of color to locate a therapist with a shared cultural background; however, InnoPsych offers a solution. InnoPsych offers a searchable directory of potential therapists, where users can filter providers in various categories, such as their state; type of insurance accepted; and therapist’s availability, ethnicity, and specialty (Caron, 2021). The creation of these new tools for mental health can help individuals find high-quality mental health services.
Alfiee M. Breland-Noble, a psychologist who teaches cultural competence and multicultural counseling skills stated cultural competence is about behaving “in a way that allows other people to feel welcome, to feel heard and to feel understood” (Caron, 2021). Furthermore, research studies have brought new ideas on how to better MCC within the mental health profession. Spanierman et al. (2008) suggest “affective reactions play a more central role in the process leading to increased multicultural knowledge … multicultural awareness was directly predicted by color-blind racial attitudes and multicultural knowledge, consistent with the extant literature.” Supervisors must be aware of White trainee affective reactions and respond appropriately by necessitating White trainees with low levels of MCC to more intensive multi-cultural training. By doing so, White trainee multicultural knowledge/awareness will increase overall leading to a better cultural understanding and improvement of mental health care for marginalized groups.
In order to have higher quality treatment for those suffering from mental health, diversity is important to have true understanding and empathy towards various cultural backgrounds. Cultural backgrounds have a large influence on mental health stigma experienced by marginalized groups which can manifest into additional challenges, such as an increased risk of future mental illness or exacerbated symptoms of mental illness. Lack of diversity in the mental health profession has created multicultural counseling incompetence due to the lack of racial and ethnic minority professionals within the field. Likewise, the prevalence of White professionals creates a racial imbalance between mental health professionals and the general population. Additionally, Black mental health professionals are discouraged to pursue careers in counseling psychology due to microaggressions experienced within higher educational programs. Consequently, lack of diversity has also influenced racial/gender biases in diagnosing psychological disorders causing mental health stigma related to marginalized groups to increase due to a lack of cultural understanding. However, new developments offer tools for individuals to find mental health services and ways to improve MCC training which may create more cultural and ethnically diverse mental health services and improve diversity within the profession.
Original post & references: https://0zimmermank.wixsite.com/encouragekindness/post/the-importance-of-diversity-within-the-mental-health-profession
By Katherine M. Zimmerman, NAMI-UW Co-President (2022-2024)
To start off my first semester as president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (NAMI-UW), I wanted to find a way to contribute to my community and continue to advocate for mental health & support individuals/families that suffer from mental illness.
Initially, Author & Mental Health Advocate, Jason Wood contacted me about helping NAMI-UW organize a semester kick-off event for the fall semester. Jason Wood is the author of "Starving for Survival: One Man's Journey With Orthorexia" and has a blog titled Orthorexia Bites. It was a pleasure to work with Jason and to learn more about his struggles with orthorexia and mental health. I truly admire his dedication to sharing his story to let others know they're not alone and for using his experiences in order to obtain personal growth, passion, and resilience.
One of my main goals was to find a business that would sponsor our event — I struggled at first due to the large number of donuts I requested and the short time frame I had to organize everything. However, once I sent a donation request to Kwik Trip, I was quickly assisted by helpful staff and contacted by their District Leader. She was kind and cooperative while working with me to arrange a date and time to pick up 200 glazed donuts (a.k.a. "Glazers") from my local Kwik Trip. The store leader, Becca was also very accommodating and helped arrange a smooth pick-up! When my mother and I went to pick up the 200 donuts, we received great service from the Kwik Trip staff, who were extremely helpful and supportive!
After weeks of planning and organizing, I was so thankful to finally have everything I needed to have a successful event and was very excited to put everything into action! Additionally, Jason Wood provided us with a video to share with UW-Madison students on our website and I created graphic designs/advertisements to spread the word about our event!
I'd like to personally thank Jason Wood for collaborating with and inspiring me. I'd also like to thank Kwik Trip for being our sponsor by donating 200 donuts to our event! Finally, a special thank you to my amazing executive team for all the work they've done for the event and the immense effort they continue to put into NAMI-UW!
Going green is a beautiful thing. It can improve your mental health and make you feel good about the world. It can help you save the planet and improve your quality of life. Whether you are dedicated to becoming an environmentalist or just really want to do your part, these green lifestyle changes will not only make the world a better place but also improve your mental health.
Going Green Can Give You a Sense of Purpose
You do not need to be a hardcore environmentalist to help the world. You can be a part of the movement by doing the simple things that can improve your quality of life, like taking care of food scraps instead of throwing them out or driving less. These changes can make you feel like you are making a difference in the world and give you a sense of purpose.
Going Green Can Give You More Energy
Just because you are going green doesn't mean you have to give up the things you love. It can be hard to do, but sometimes it is just as important to stop and take care of yourself. Eating less processed foods or choosing organic vegetables and fruits can also improve your energy levels so you can get a little more done each day.
Going Green Can Help Reduce Stress
Remember: It is not always necessary to be green all the time. You can still have fun without sacrificing the environment. We are all guilty of doing things that are not kind to the environment, but starting small can help you feel good about your contribution. Going green means choosing sustainable options when you can because they are better for the planet and they make us feel better too.
Learning to Be More Mindful
Going green can help you learn how to be more mindful. Many of the things we do in the environment can have an impact on the way we think so it is important to remember that your actions can have a real impact on the world and your life.
For instance, if you are considering buying something new and it is made of plastic, consider getting a reusable alternative to save the planet before buying something. Not only will you help save the environment, but you can also make yourself feel good by using recycled products.
Going Green Can Help You Fight Depression
Studies have shown that people who are exposed to more natural elements have less depression. This is because they see the beauty in nature, and it allows them to relax and enjoy life. Small changes like going green can allow you to have a positive impact on your mental health, which will help you fight depression.
Mental illness is not a weakness. Changing the way you think about nature and the environment can give you a new outlook that will improve your mental health and make you feel great. Even as a simple change, going green is something that most people can do, no matter what their job is.
Immersing Yourself in a Community
It is not always necessary to be a hardcore environmentalist to have a positive impact on the environment. Sometimes, it is enough to just do whatever you can and make small changes that can make the world a better place. It is easy to feel like you are not doing enough, but people are making small changes that are making an impact every day. You do not need to always be part of a larger movement to make a difference because sometimes, you can feel good about your contribution even if it is small.
Joining like-minded communities doesn't mean you need to commit to becoming a hardcore environmentalist. Anyone can make small changes to improve their quality of life, and these communities can help you feel good about your contribution as well. It is a great way to interact with others who are passionate about the same things you are and bond over your shared interests, which can give you a sense of belonging in a world that doesn't always feel so friendly.
Minimizing the Risk of Developing Neurotic Disorders
While going green can improve your mental health and make you feel great, it can also improve your quality of life. Being aware of environmental issues and the risks they can create is a form of mindfulness that can help you overcome psychological disorders.
If you suffer from anxiety or depression, switching to a more eco-friendly lifestyle is a way to minimize the risk of developing neurotic disorders.
Going green is a great approach to dealing with mental health and learning disability. With the help of green practices, students can better concentrate on their academics and other activities. This applies to both children and adults. Adults who live a more sustainable lifestyle are better equipped to cope with stress and focus on their work.
The Bottom Line
Going green can improve your mental health and make you feel good about your contribution to the world. By doing things like recycling, you can feel good about helping the environment and also save money. When it comes to going green, there is no right or wrong way to do it. It's all about the way that works for you, so let that be one of the reasons you choose to go green.
Aishwarya Iyer Bhasker
Imagine someone suffering from something that is as fatal as cancer, but it is all in their mind which makes it hard to even explain to someone. Surviving with it is so hard that they find it difficult to zip up their jacket or pull the bus cord. This disease is also multifactorial, which means it is caused by multiple factors, including multiple genes and environmental factors including the maternal environment, much like cancers. But unlike cancers or any illnesses that manifest physically, these are widely misunderstood and considered as just weaknesses or the fault of the patient. I just described how debilitating and isolating clinical depression or Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) can be. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.
The deep-rooted stigma surrounding all mental health issues arises from lack of awareness of the symptoms and causes of mental illnesses. Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a renowned neuroanatomist said, “Although many of us think of ourselves as thinking creatures that feel, biologically we are feeling creatures that think.” She goes on to explain that at the neuroanatomical level, information flows from the inner emotional part of the brain, called the limbic system, and then moves to the higher cortices for high-order cognition. Therefore, when our emotions get hurt, the way we think is affected. Hence the genesis of mental health issues.1
As for the biological basis, psychiatric illnesses like MDD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, autism are still widely researched in the neuroscience community. Since the brain is the most complex organ of the human body, much of what we know about the brain is because of studies done on people with such deficits. The limbic system is thought to be dysregulated in these mood disorders.2 The amygdala (a component of the limbic system) is thought to be hyperactive in depression facilitating a mostly overactive response to negative stimuli. Since the limbic system is in connection with the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex, which play roles in learning and higher-order cognition, these structures show decreased volume in people suffering from depression (Note that I used this term instead of saying ‘depressed people’; they should not be defined by their condition). Hence, the brain’s ability to learn and form new memories and make decisions is severely impaired. 3
The most common psychiatric illnesses are MDD (6.7%), bipolar disorder (4.4%) and GAD (3.1%) in adults in the United States. 4 Especially in the last year, aka year 2 of the CoViD-19 pandemic, 19% (almost one in five) of adults experienced mental illness in the US.5 For so much we know about mental health issues, there is so much we do not know. But what we do know is this is the time to be kind to all and do our best to be inclusive of everyone, neurotypical or not.
The author is a Ph.D. student at University of Wisconsin-Madison and her research involves studying the involvement of certain neural circuits in controlling complex behaviors like social motivation.
Self-care is one thing they don’t teach you in school but is nonetheless a critical skill you need to learn.
Unfortunately, it’s common for many people to neglect caring for themselves, which can have both short- and long-term effects on physical and mental health. To improve your wellbeing, try to stop these common behaviors.
1. Stop Treating Sleep as an Afterthought
Getting poor sleep has an all-encompassing negative effect on your physical and mental health. Without a healthy sleep pattern, you increase your risk of developing a variety of illnesses, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and psychiatric disorders. Your life expectancy even suffers.
It is thus vital to your wellbeing that you practice good sleep habits. Sleep needs vary from person to person, with some people requiring nine hours of sleep to feel rested and others only need seven. The eight-hour rule is pretty much a myth, as eight hours may be too much or too little for you, and you shouldn’t force yourself to get eight hours if it doesn’t feel right to you.
Getting good-quality sleep begins with having proper sleep hygiene. This means doing things that help your sleep, such as having a consistent sleep schedule, and not doing things that hinder your sleep, such as drinking alcohol before bed.
2. Stop Neglecting Exercise
If you have a mostly sedentary lifestyle, you’re not doing your health any favors. Neglecting your body’s need for exercise causes a variety of issues, such as weakening your muscles and bones and upping your risk of heart problems. According to several studies, there is a strong link between exercise and health.
Ideally, you should exercise for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, to maximize its benefits. However, even a little exercise is preferable to having none at all. If you can’t fit in five days per week, just getting in a brief workout during the weekends can be beneficial.
Exercising isn’t just for your physical health. It can also boost your mood and self-esteem and help to ease
depression and anxiety by promoting the production of four feel-good brain chemicals: epinephrine, serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins. This is why exercise is so commonly recommended by healthcare professionals of all kinds, from general practitioners to mental health workers.
3. Stop Burning Yourself Out
Job burnout is all too common. One survey found that 23% of workers felt burnt out more than half the time and 44% did at least some of the time. When you’re burnt out, you may feel exhausted physically and emotionally while lacking the motivation to do your best work.
There are many ways to deal with job burnout, all of which are tied to good self-care. Socializing with someone to whom you’re close, refraining from alcohol and caffeine, or talking to your employer can all help manage burnout. There are also local resources from NAMI-UW that may be able to help.
If you’re a business owner, a virtual assistant can help ease your workload by scheduling appointments, performing personal errands, or managing events, for example. There are multitude of job boards that compare virtual assistants and their rates and experience levels and offer reviews.
If you want to improve your personal life, proper self-care allows you to keep yourself at your best. With just a little know-how and a few lifestyle adjustments, you can begin to change some of your bad habits today and start to feel happier and healthier.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.