Michelle Rupp: Hello and welcome into this week’s edition of AFMC TV. We’re glad you’re joining us here today is Ladeana Bell. She is a licensed psychological examiner here at AFMC. Ladeana, thanks for being on the show today.

Ladeana Bell, LPE-I: Thank you for having me.

MR: So, May is mental health awareness month and over the last few weeks, few months, couple of years we’ve really shone a spotlight on mental health. So Ladeana, what can be done during this month of May to help maybe even start some mental health conversations as it becomes in the forefront of our own minds that we may be talking to folks who are struggling.

LB: I think it’s so important and I’m so glad that that you’re doing this segment, Michelle. It’s just because it is mental health month and in May, it’s a great time and you have an excuse maybe to start those conversations that you might not start in other months or maybe you’ve been wanting to but you feel a bit awkward and just bringing up mental health month and saying, I was I was watching this Tv show or I was, I read this article that it’s mental health month and I didn’t know that lack of energy could be, you know, a symptom of depression. Or I looked online at this website Mental Health America, and I did a screening and realized I have a lot of anxiety symptoms. I always like when possible, not to be, not to lack authenticity but to bring it back to ourselves. So, starting out with, you know what you have seen or what you have experienced to open up that conversation sometimes it can be less threatening. So, I think that that’s one way to kind of start it. And it’s a great time to do it in mental health month.

MR: It certainly is a delicate or can be a delicate, sensitive conversation to embark on. Any tips that you might recommend in starting that conversation and kind of getting that ball rolling ever so gently.

LB: Obviously this probably goes without saying, but it depends on the person. How receptive they may be. If it’s a person that you already kind of know from other data points, they may not be as receptive. One of the things and the messages that I really like to get out and sometimes when I’m talking with family members who may be my client, but they’re worried about another family member. Is that mental health is part of overall health? So, say that a person is not really keen on mental health and they’re like, I’m not into that stuff. I don’t talk about my problems, or we don’t do that. But talking about just health in general. So maybe they’ll go to their heart doctor, maybe they’ll go to a doctor for diabetes, and we know, and people have known this for decades that are really wise and smart, but it’s now backed up by research that our mental health impacts our physical health or can impact our physical health and vice versa. So, take covid 19, for instance, I mean, one of the risk factors for serious outcomes can be depression and that at first glance doesn’t make a lot of sense, but when you think about major depression, sometimes people don’t eat right, they’re not exercising, or they don’t follow through with kind of those self-care activities. So, say you have a person who’s not really worried about mental health, but they are kind of worried about covid or they or they might have a covid conversation, they might actually be sick of it, but, you know, you can kind of wedge it in there through a different topic that does interest them. Someone loves golf. So, a person loves golf may not like a lot of things loves golf, and then you know, that they’re having trouble with their knees. You can’t really say, well, if you get depressed, you’ll never play golf again. That probably wouldn’t be the best way. But saying, you know, I want you to be able to play golf for the next 30 years and the more you take care of your health, the more likely that is going to happen. So, trying to find something that is important to that person that then you can kind of bring the mental health conversation into that topic.

MR: Framing it in such a way that you care so much about the person that you’re talking with, that it’s really about because I care about you, I want to have this conversation and who doesn’t like to be cared for or felt like, wow, someone else cares about me.

LB: Exactly. I mean, caring, always starting out with the caring comment. And again, it depends on the relationship. If it’s a personal relationship and a friendship, it’s easier to say I care about you than a stranger, you know, your coworker that you don’t see as much. But I think that there’s all kinds of ways to work it in there in some creative ways, but for mental health month, what a better time to be thinking about that.

MR: We see a lot of commercials now talking about mental health. Talking about you can have a counselor basically at your fingertips if you will on different apps with your phone. Certainly, there’s a lot of conversations happening on social media about mental health. Does this, does this help? Or in some instances, maybe hinder the message because we are seeing it all the time.

LB: Right. Absolutely. Just even in the last five, six years. It’s just so different than it was five or six years ago with the commercialization. You know, seeing the antidepressants advertised on commercials. Advertising different kinds of therapy platforms. I don’t want to take the positive first, the positive is, the more we talk about something we normalize it and hopefully that has some ability to lessen the shame or the stigma. To know that okay this is out there, and you know people are making TikTok’s about their depression or TikTok’s about OCD. Obsessive compulsive disorder. So, I mean that’s the good part of it because the less that people feel isolated and the more they feel like oh my goodness I have struggled with this symptom and thought I was really strange and weird all these years. But look this person is talking about it, this person even went on social media about it. And that’s the good aspect. Having more accessibility to providers and to care is definitely a positive. But then we have to look at the potential negatives. And whenever something becomes commercialized, and we start looking at marketing there’s always that potential that the driving force behind that marketing ends up being not about quality care at times. So, if we have a therapist housed in a place they usually aren’t. The positive aspect is okay. So, somebody in this facility may get therapy that never would go. But then the downside can be if the person directing that care is not the mental health provider but it’s a platform. So, the platform or the agency says you can do 20 minute sessions. Well not everybody just needs a 20 minute session, some people need an hour session, some people need 45 minutes. And so that that’s kind of the downside? And we really have to watch out to not let things be too commercialized to where it becomes something that’s not as helpful and people are not. The driving force should always be the provider with the skill and the experience, not a marketing platform.

MR: You touched on something, and I want to take a couple steps back when you mentioned the word shame. How is there a way to neutralize that stigma of shame once an individual finally musters up the courage to go ahead and seek help? Well, you’ve asked the million-dollar question. So honestly, I think that shame is a much bigger deal than we’re even giving it credit for. I do, I mean, and even people who show up to therapy and make that phone call and come into the office, I am often dealing with a lot of shame-based stuff that’s really heavy and hard. But then we have the other type of shame that that may not be as heavy as some of the things once we get into therapy, but the shame of even making the phone call or feeling like I don’t want to make that first call and I just would say, you know the message is again, going back to taking care of oneself. And if you can’t quite care about yourself enough then do you care about your dog? Do you care about your Children? Do you care about your sister? Your mother? Your brother. Do you care about your work? Finding that and saying, okay, I feel embarrassed. I’m not really sure why, but I feel embarrassed about this. But I’m picking up the phone. I’m going to make this call anyway and I’m shaking inside, and I feel awkward and, and I mean that’s addressing it really head on. Now as a person and a friend, just, you know, not discounting the fact that the person may feel really embarrassed. But saying, “but you know, you’re worth it. You’re worth more as much or more than anybody else in this world to feel better. And maybe you don’t feel good right now. But what if you felt even 10% better?” I mean, I think there was some app one time called 10% happier and it wasn’t like 90% happier. So, making that phone call and looking at it as a marathon and not a sprint and not letting shame drive the bus anymore. Tell shame to take a backseat.

MR: That’s great. Great words there. In our remaining moments, let’s briefly talk about the phone number. The 988 number that will go into effect in July. Yes so, you know, there’s 911 that we just have for any emergency. Congress has passed this and it’s going to happen effective in July. Don’t start using it yet. But the 988 is for mental health emergency. For suicidal crisis. And so that way when that comes through to that operator, they know even though they have training now to deal with all kinds of emergencies, they know this is going to be a mental health emergency, so we need to get out our toolkit for that. And as silly as it may sound when someone is really in a mental health crisis dialing three numbers, three digits, is easier than dialing the 1 800 number. Because I mean little things like that, that a lot of us go, oh does that really matter? Yeah, it absolutely might because by the time they get to 1 800 they may hang up, but they’ve already dialed 988 and then maybe, the person comes on. So, I’m really excited about that. It’s been in the works for a long time and it’s about to happen.

MR: And that goes nationwide in July. Definitely a great tool that will be coming online, Ladeana, anything else you’d like to add here?

LB: Just care about yourself enough to include your mental health. And mental wellness. So it doesn’t have to always be about a mental health problem. Just thinking about mental wellness. And you know, Mental Health America, the website, NAMI national Alliance on mental illness. They are great resources. So, there are resources out there to give you more advice and to do even free screenings. So, that’s my message today.

MR: All right, terrific. Ladeana Bell, thank you so much for taking some time to to address such an important topic. And thank you so much for joining us today. We’ll see you back here next week for more AFMC TV.