The Importance of a Support Network

As some of us are unwinding from the past two years of stress related to the pandemic, the results are in about its negative impact on us. As a whole the U.S has experienced a dramatic increase in depression and anxiety that have negatively impacted the quality of life for those who experience these symptoms. Adding to this burden is the mental health providers crisis, where many Americans are unable to find therapists that are in their insurance networks and/or are unable to pay the out of pocket rates for the therapist that they do find. These stressors are leading to the unhealthiest we have been as a society; with Black, Indigenous, and People of Color experiencing these symptoms at even higher rates due to disparities in healthcare and systemic racism.

However, one way to combat these stressors is to get back out there and reconnect. Research has shown that having a network/social support can improve your mental health overtime. Furthermore friends and social support can help you with emotional regulation, and reduces anxiety and stress through perspective taking. Getting back out there may take some practice and connecting with old friends may seem foreign because many of us are not the same people anymore and/or have significantly changed over the course of the past two years. But despite these changes it is still possible to reconnect, gain and/or maintain friendships through this transition and over the course of the lifespan.

By reconnecting with friends in real life, engaging in hobbies and/or social clubs, or building parent groups can be significant when attempting to reduce depression or anxiety symptoms. Dr. Johnson outlines 10 Tips for Making Friends and Dr. Degges-White shares the Importance of friendships over the lifespan. By making an conscious effort to reintegrate social connections back into your life, you can literally save it (not being hyperbolic), see research here.

So lets get back out there and make these positive connections!

If you or someone you know is dealing with depression, anxiety and/or suicidal ideation please reach out to SAMHSA’s National Helpline.

SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders. Also visit the online treatment locator.

About Stephanie Williams, PhD

Stephanie Williams, PhD, is the founder and clinical director of Integrated Psychological Assessment Services which is licensed in the state of California. IPAS staff are a group of inclusive-minded clinicians that focus on the connection between what we think, feel and do, and how changes in those key areas can improve one’s life. We value the unique experiences of our clients and pride ourselves in providing culturally competent services for People of Color, the LGBTQIA community and other systematically disenfranchised groups.   Call or visit our website today to see how the right therapist can help you : 408-201-9850 | http://www.ipasinc.net

Depression and US, part II

During this six part series on depression, I will share some of recent research on depression as it pertains to various groups in the United States. Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders, with over three million cases diagnosed in the United States per year. Depression is described as a persistent feeling of sadness or loss of interest that can lead to a range of behavioral and physical changes. Some of these symptoms may include changes in sleep, energy level, concentration, and self- esteem. In the most severe cases depression can also cause thoughts of suicide. 

If you or anyone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide please call the national suicide prevention line at 800-273-8255 or go to your local emergency room for immediate assistance.

Depression Among Asian Americans

            Asian Americans are “the fastest growing minority population in the US” and with nineteen unique ethnicities that include Cambodian, Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Korean, Pakistani, Filipino, Thai, and Vietnamese, detection of mental health symptoms can be somewhat complicated. A significant percentage of Asian Americans suffer from depression, but are less likely to be diagnosed than any other ethnic group.

One major reason for this diagnostic shortcoming is that Asian Americans presentation of depressive symptoms are different than any other ethnic/racial group. Asian Americans “may not report sadness or depressed mood” to providers as their main complaint, so they may not meet the criteria typically used to measure depression. Instead Asian Americans have been found to display more physical symptoms of depression, such as “changes in appetite, headaches, backaches, stomachaches, insomnia, or fatigue.” This may be why Asian Americans are less likely to be diagnosed with depression, and are “less likely to access any depression treatment.”

            Researchers estimate that 26.9% – 35.6% of Asian Americans may have depressive symptoms; 4.5% – 11.3% of Asian American adults meet the criteria for major depression. Research supports that higher rates of depression are found among Koreans and Filipinos, while lower rates are found with Japanese and Chinese ethnicities. Overall, these numbers suggest that there needs to be more research and support for Asian American communities in order to support their mental health.

            Mental health providers can better detect depression and increase mental health services for Asian Americans by understanding diversity, and taking a more insightful approach to diagnostic assessment of Asian American mental health needs.

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References: Kim, H.J., Park, E., Storr, C.L., Tran, K., Juon, H.S. (2015). Depression among Asian-American Adults in the Community: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. PLoS ONE, 10 (6).

About Stephanie Williams, PhD

Stephanie Williams, PhD, is the founder of Integrated Psychological Assessment Services. Her practice focuses on the connection between what we think, feel and do, and how changes can improve one’s life. Dr. Williams believes in empowering people to help them grow, change, or just deal with the daily demands of life.

Call Dr. Williams today for a free consultation: 408-317-0687.

Depression and US, Part I

During this six part series on depression, I will share some recent research on depression as it pertains to various groups in the United States. Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders, with over three million cases diagnosed in the United States per year. Depression is described as a persistent feeling of sadness or loss of interest that can lead to a range of behavioral and physical changes. Some of these symptoms may include changes in sleep, energy level, concentration, and self- esteem. In the most severe cases depression can also cause thoughts of suicide.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide please call the national suicide prevention line at 800-273-8255 or go to your local emergency room for immediate assistance.

Depression Among Black Men

            Studies have shown that Black men regularly underutilize mental health services. Based on a series of focus groups, perceptions such as social norms, distrust and affordability of medical care, and objections to using antidepressant medications may be involved. This sheds light on how Black men interact with mental healthcare, and provides opportunities for increasing mental health. Prior research suggests that although depression is more prevalent among Whites than Blacks, Black men may be “more vulnerable to experience of depression” and more disabled by depressive symptoms than their White peers. Despite the impact of depressive symptoms on Black men, they are half as likely as their White peers to use mental health services.

            In a recent study, a focus group was conducted with a small sample of approximately 26 Black men in St Louis to obtain their perspectives on depression and mental healthcare. Most participants described depression “as being down, feeling hopeless, or being stressed.” A small amount of participants stated “that depression does not exist,” that it was a choice to give in to “feelings of depression.” However, the majority of participants believed that it was important to seek professional help for depression. Although they believed mental healthcare to be important, most participants did not want to seek medical treatment because of the costs involved. They were also not sure how to seek mental health services, and were strongly opposed to the possibility of using medications for mental health. Social factors were also a major deterrent to seeking mental healthcare, with believes about masculinity and men not wanting to be “labeled as weak or crazy” for seeking psychiatric help. The participants also reported concerns about privacy, about “discomfort with the idea of being judged by a professional that did not identify with culturally or socioeconomically.”

Interestingly, social factors may also provide a solution. The participants found that discussing stress and depression “in nonjudgmental support groups,” such as the focus group study, was very helpful and wished to participate in future focus groups. This provides an actionable solution for Black men dealing with depression: seek out social connections and discussion of shared experiences.

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References: Hudson, D.L., Eaton, J., Banks, A., Sewell, W., Neighbors, H. (2018). “Down in the Sewers”: Perceptions of Depression and Depression Care Among African American Men. American Journal of Men’s Health, 2018, Vol. 12 (1), 126-137.

About Stephanie Williams, PhD

Stephanie Williams, PhD, is the founder of Integrated Psychological Assessment Services. Her practice focuses on the connection between what we think, feel and do, and how changes can improve one’s life. Dr. Williams believes in empowering people to help them grow, change, or just deal with the daily demands of life.

Call Dr. Williams today for a free consultation: 408-317-0687.