DIY Checkup: Assessing Your Mental Health

Monday, July 19, 2010

50 million Americans will suffer from a mental health issue this year. But only a quarter of them will seek treatment from a mental health professional. And one in three mental health consumers in the United States report being turned down for a job once their psychiatric status became known.

Share your story: How do you maintain your peace of mind? Have you been able to find good therapy for mental health issues?

On Facebook, Katie Drake writes us:

How I keep my peace of mind: 1. Dancing 2. By periodically making a priority checklist. 3. By not feeling ashamed of talking to a professional. 

How I encourage others to maintain their peace of mind: 1. Encouraging them to keep dancing. 2. Reminding them that their yoga instructor, dance teacher, bartender, etc... is not a health-care professional and cannot solve all of their problems. 3. Listening.

And Adriana Perry writes:

Peace of mind: exercise, meditation, low dose of drinks and be compassionate with yourself and everyone else.

Newsweek health reporter Kate Dailey says the stigma associated with having a mental health problem is still preventing people from seeking out helpful treatment. However, many people often don't even recognize that they need help. 

Harvard psychologist Richard McNally says there's no clear boundary between mental health and mental illness, but if a problem persists and it's affecting your everyday life, it might be time to go talk to a professional. McNally is studying new ways to treat anxiety disorders with simple computer programs. He hopes these forms of treatment could eventually be administered in people's homes and be used to expand access to care.


Kate Dailey and Dr. Richard McNally

Produced by:

Jen Poyant

Comments [11]

joe garis from Miami

If you have ever been labled with a psych evaluation your screwed. Growing up in the projects in-its-self is a bad label. For those growing up in the projects, the best hope of any career is civil service, a union, or to become a cop. The only other available alternatives usually include selling drugs or prostitution. I got hit by a car when I was a kid and recovered. I never knew my record said retard, and only found this out in 1995 when studying through a grass roots disabled advocacy group that I was labeled developmentally disabled and deemed economically unviable. I even went to voc-rehab to see if they would approve my plan to open a real estate brokerage office; it was stamped not viable and rejected. I got the same reply for an application to finish a master’s degree. Paying cash and without professional, I did both. Because my file said retard, voc-rehab suggested basket weaving or horticulture. For every time I applied for a city job or any job connected to a political program, my barriers to employment only got more magnified. I even got a high grade on the exam to sweep buses for the MTA and was rejected. Whenever I thought about it and sought therapy to help figure it out, I was further labeled and encourage to take medication.

All the medication prescribed by mental health professional found its way to the garbage can. I don’t like drugs or alcohol, nor do I have much respect for those who do. I like collecting money, and have always had to remain completely responsible for what I sold or invented. Dope could only inhibit the only thing I would ever be successful in, i.e., selling, managing and collecting money.

As far as professional suspicion of my being unbalanced, I guess I do have a strong desire to deliver hurt and pain to anyone who prevents my collection of a bill or commission (especially MH professionals) But whats wrong with that? I mean helping a barrier to transcend their human condition

Jul. 19 2010 08:58 PM
Louisa from USA

I got a law degree from Harvard to protect myself and others from the kind of abuse I experienced as a kid, illegally hospitalized and force-fed for purported anorexia. I later testified before Congress about the way monetary incentives drive delivery of mental health care, especially to disadvantaged or "overly advantaged" persons. Too often the spectrum of treatment has people at two ends of the bell curve: at one end "benign" neglect (often expensive, sometimes not) and at the other abuse so extreme it really is nothing short of torture and itself destroys (or can destroy) lives. After 20 years as an advocate for better care, I find myself very saddened to conclude, that bias against people who cannot be perfectly resilient is as much at the heart of the problem of finding help as inefficient financial incentives (inefficient, that is, unless our society concludes that "broken people" should just as well be thrown away -- a bias that can only be challenged by more people coming into the light and saying, I have this problem but I am valuable and I function -- most of the time, or I have functioned and can be useful again). Sad that we have to bring our CVs to therapy to get taken seriously.... so many people are wasted by society that way, and die painful deaths or lead horrific lives. Thanks fro following up on these issues. Pls do more...

Jul. 19 2010 05:11 PM
Brooke Stephens from Brooklyn, NY

My comment regarding your mental health segment is that most African-Americans don't go for help because 1.) the stigma in the community is very strong and ugly (you got Jesus! Why do you need a shrink?) and 2.) there aren't enough black therapists out there and it is demeaning to have to spend my time and money educating a white therapist about black culture so that we can communicate. How can someone help me who has never heard of any of the black universities, did not pay attention to the events of the 60s and 70s and when I mention that my father was one of the Tuskegee Airmen, the response is "What's that?" Next time I'm in that situation I'm going to pass out a reading list for white Americans. If there's going to be a real helpful interaction here, white therapists need to learn something about the culture of the patient if they are going to really be helpful. Otherwise, it's a waste of time and becomes more frustrating for the patient.

Jul. 19 2010 11:29 AM
mray from brooklyn

was just waking up and heard a guest on the takeaway say that there is a new medication for anxiety -- but didn't hear what it is called. or a new treatment?

thank you.

[From producer, Jen Poyant:
It’s not an FDA approved treatment yet; it’s a study that our guest, Richard McNally, and other researchers are working on.  Basically they’re using computer screens to train anxiety patients to distract their anxiety-ridden minds by focusing on non-anxiety inducing imagery.]

Jul. 19 2010 10:21 AM
Joe C.

What helps me keep my peace of mind is the tools that I have learned through my participation in Emotions Anonymous, but through face to face meetings and also through the Internet. EA does not explain why I have emotional problems, but it does teach me how to live with my emotions, how to change my reactions to them and to the people and events around me. I have not found therapy helpful or needed medication, but there are those in EA who do find that therapy and medication are helpful. I encourage others to check out EA at

Jul. 19 2010 07:42 AM
Elisabeth from Detroit

After having a manic reaction to Zoloft which had been prescribed to me for PTSD following being raped in college, I was diagnosed as having bipolar disorder. Finding a psychiatrist who was supportive and willing to work with me, truly listen to the facts of the side effects and adverse reactions I was experiencing as a result of the medications I was prescribed was a maddening experience of itself. In fact, the first 2 psychiatrists I had told me I would never graduate from college and would be on disability for the rest of my life!! It took me an extra year, but I graduated with my BS in bioengineering in 2007! I am now working full time and going to graduate school to get my MS/PhD in biomedical engineering. Fortunately I had been able to find a doc at my college in undergrad who listened to me, and put me on trileptal (off label use). It has been an effective management drug for me.

Jul. 19 2010 07:36 AM
Stephaniel from New York

I have medicaid in NYC. I was depressed while pregnant & tried to find a therapist, but was told that the only way I could get individual therapy was to be admitted to the hospital after attempting suicide. Apparently the only options available to poor people are group therapy &/or medication.

Jul. 19 2010 01:12 AM
RP from NYC

I have been trying to obtain competent mental health care for the past 20 years. When I was 16 I went to see a therapist for depression. It wasn't helpful, and later I was taken off my father's insurance because I had dropped out of college due to panic attacks.

I became involved in an abusive relationship and homeless. I then joined the military. I was told that if I went to see a therapist I would be kicked out. After a few years I saw a therapist who was mildly helpful but then I was discharged.

The VA is a nightmare. They told me I was bipolar and I did not need therapy, only meds, which seemed to make me worse. I chose the school where I finished getting my bachelor’s degree based mainly on the quality of their mental health services. I saw a therapist who was somewhat helpful, but then I graduated.

I again started trying to get assistance from the VA. I went from job to job, place to place, struggling to get by. I also tried to get help from therapists at nonprofit organizations, but I could barely afford $5 a session. I didn’t qualify for Medicaid because I worked full-time. I decided to earn my MA in Psychology. This helped me gain a better understanding of myself. Unfortunately I became depressed and faced stigma from other students.

I tried the VA again, and was told that I had PTSD and borderline personality disorder. Since they were conducting research on BPD they focused solely on that. The therapy was only mildly helpful, and I recently started paying $110 twice a week to see a therapist who told me I have PTSD but not BPD, and that I am traumatized from severe childhood abuse. I have started to see significant improvements but will not be able to see him again until I get a job.

Jul. 18 2010 06:51 PM
Harold A. Maio from Ft Myers FL

Newsweek health reporter Kate Dailey "says" the stigma associated with having a mental health problem is still preventing people from seeking out helpful treatment.

It is unfortunate she says so. I am sure there are people "saying: other stigmas, too. It is best not to listen to them.

Harold A. Maio

Jul. 16 2010 08:04 PM
R.C. from New York, NY

I have suffered from dysthymia for many years; finally being diagnosed in college. I believe firmly that cultural circumstances and predisposition to diseases, including depression, because of cultural, social, economical, and environmental circumstances play a huge role in indentifying proper treatment. For me, finding a therapist who is culturally sensitive, not just aware, has been a struggle, as well as finding the balance between recognizing ideas of self-empowerment and clear institutional and philosophical blockades is key in treating persons of color, particularly those who have a long history of medical abuse and mistrust in America. I had many years without insurance because of growing up in poverty, and thank God a prestigious college with a wonderful hospital affiliation saved me and gave me some good treatment during my college years (medication, very good therapy by a culturally sensitive therapist). I remember freshman year, talking to a white (well-meaning, very educated and sensitive, very kind and responsive mental health advocate and therapist), and receiving little or no improvement until I found a therapist (who happened to be a woman of color from India, which was coincidence but also probably played a positive role in our great rapport) because of the lack of deep understanding of my cultural and background situation. I am not sure if the barriers of race and culture are always so pronounced, but they should be discussed. Being a woman of color coming from poverty and going off to the Ivy League already affords me the (if elitist) access to understand and know my options for health care, and also the power to seek it out beyond the stigma that faces all those interested in maintaining or dealing with mental health issues, not to mention those who have a historical distaste of recognizing mental health as a valid health concern. We can not deny that blacks, particularly black women, have historically been told, learned, or been taught that if they are strong enough, they don't have to worry about any mental health issues - for fear of being labeled crazy or weak. All of this psychologically effects how one can seek out therapy, or other means of maintaining mental health and peace of mind. As a result, we should continue to be sensitive, responsible, and acknowledge what additional steps can be done to grant access and options to those who may not recognize they exist.

Jul. 16 2010 02:39 PM
Campbell Norwood from Seattle, WA

For years I struggled with depression. My efforts to control it involved everything except medication. I believed I could cure it myself if I worked hard and honestly in therapy, practised good nutrition and exercise, and used tools like positive affirmations. After many more years, I was in great physical shape, and one therapist told me he didn't know anyone who worked harder at mental health. ... but I was still depressed. The same therapist convinced me to give anti-depressants a try. The medication worked beautifully. For the first time in my memory, I lived whole days without the black, sucking undertow of depression.

I am a huge proponent of therapy, but medication absolutely has a place in treatment.

Jul. 16 2010 12:34 PM

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