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Reflections on Mental Health: A Q&A with Veritas Staff

Millions of Americans struggle with their mental health. That is one reason why Mental Health Awareness Month is so significant. Eating disorders, anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder are just some examples of what people are experiencing. Mental health is often stigmatized, but it deserves to be seen as equally as important as physical health. Everyone deserves support and care for their mental health, regardless of whether they suffer with a mental illness. 

To close out Mental Health Awareness Month, we asked some of our therapists about mental health—what it means to them and how they protect theirs while working in the field. Check out their answers below!

Leanna Pai, LCMHC, ATR

Psychotherapist at the Charlotte Child, Adolescent, and Young Adult Center

What does mental health mean to you?

Mental health is complex and can have an impact on every part of a person’s life. It’s difficult to determine one definition or one priority that encompasses all of mental health. Mental health will and should hold a different meaning for each person because we all hold different values and beliefs. 

For me, mental health means being able to be happy and accept where you are mentally and emotionally while also being able to grow in the ways you would like to. Mental health is a right. It’s critical to highlight that not everyone has equal access to that right. That limited access is a big part of why I decided to become a therapist. 

How do you take care of yourself while working in mental health?

It is so important to take care of yourself while working in mental health. It is pertinent for not only yourself but for your career. Prioritizing your mental health will make your career more sustainable and also allow for the best care for your patients. 

It’s important to make self-care a preventative, ongoing process. As an empath working on my own emotional boundaries, this has been a game-changer. From making art to staying connected with friends to getting outside, what you need from day to day will be different. Having a variety of self-care activities in my toolbelt has been a key aspect of maintaining my mental health.

 

Taccara Williams, MA, LCMHC-A, QP

Psychotherapist at the Durham Child and Adolescent Center

What does mental health mean to you?

Tough times in life are inevitable. To me, mental health means understanding that and developing the tools to be able to ask for what I need if I am not able to provide it for myself emotionally, mentally, or physically.

How do you take care of yourself while working in mental health?

While working in mental health, I’m intentional about protecting the time that I give to others. I evaluate whether my personal relationships and hobbies are adding value to my life and helping me grow overall. If not, I stick to my boundaries and recognize that it is time to let go of those relationships or hobbies. 

 

Caroline Rutledge, MA, LCMHC, LCASA, NCC

PHP/IOP Manager & Psychologist at the Durham Adult Center

What does mental health mean to you?

Mental health means everything to me, though that hasn’t always been the case. It’s not something we talked about when I was younger. I love the quote, “Experience is the best teacher, and the worst experiences teach the best lessons.” Various life experiences led me to find a therapist that was life-changing for me and inspired me to become a mental health counselor. 

Mental health impacts all aspects of our life, including relationships, work, leisure, and physical health. We have to take care of ALL aspects of our health. To me, mental health is what helps us cultivate true connection with ourselves and others and what helps us focus on living an authentic, values-driven life. 

How do you take care of yourself while working in mental health?

Balance, boundaries, and self-compassion are the keys to maintaining my own wellbeing while working in mental health. Balancing work and life is so important, so I make sure I spend quality time with my family, friends, and fur babies. I take time to relax, play, laugh, and recharge. Self-compassion has been a game-changer for me and has really helped me challenge my own perfectionism and give myself the grace that I so easily give to others. Reading, journaling, and practicing gratitude also help me to keep perspective, keep learning, and keep growing, both personally and professionally. 

Kari Burden, MS, APC, NCC

Psychotherapist at the Atlanta Hospital and Center

What does mental health mean to you?  

Mental health is universal. To be human means to be affected by what’s happening in our environment and to experience fluctuations in our internal state. Mental health is multidimensional. It’s not as simple as mental wellness and mental illness, both of which can exist to varying degrees at the same time. Despite the stigma, both mental health and physical health are equally essential components of overall health. The mind and the body are intricately interconnected. It’s something we don’t talk about enough!

How do you take care of yourself while working in mental health?

One of the many things I appreciate about this work is that it keeps me accountable. If I don’t attend to my needs, I can’t be as effective in helping others. Therefore, I have to prioritize my own mental health. Part of this is being really intentional about setting and upholding boundaries that enable me to empathize with patients without taking on what isn’t mine. 

For me, some of the most important aspects of self-care are more basic than extravagant. My self-care includes things like listening to my body and fueling it with foods I enjoy, getting enough sleep, monitoring and addressing pain, and sticking to a schedule and routine. Social connectedness is also a necessary element in maintaining my mental health. If I’m not connecting socially with others, I’m generally more vulnerable to stressors and less resilient, so I try to find lots of opportunities to connect in ways that fulfill me. Internally, self-care looks like acknowledging my emotions and taking time to slow down and feel them as they come up, staying mindful of the way I talk to myself, and practicing compassion for myself when I’m not doing as much as I wish I could. It’s not always easy, but it’s critical to my work as a therapist. I don’t preach anything to patients that I wouldn’t be willing to practice myself.

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