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May 6, 2022

Mental Health Awareness with Rachael Lawrence

Mental Health Awareness with Rachael Lawrence

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. With the effects of the pandemic and our volatile social and political climate, this is a good time to hear a great episode about a delicate and often ignored subject. Honestly answering the question “How are you feeling?” could save or change your life. I learned a lot from this episode, so lie down on your couch and get educated on this very important and often misunderstood topic. --- This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. With the effects of the pandemic and our volatile social and political climate, this is a good time to hear a great episode about a delicate and often ignored subject. Honestly answering the question “How are you feeling?” could save or change your life. I learned a lot from this episode, so lie down on your couch and get educated on this very important and often misunderstood topic. --- This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app

Cecil Grant, Jr.


Welcome to changing the narrative. I'm your host Cecil grant Jr. Today. We're going to talk about a topic that I am not familiar familiar with, but I think it's a very important topic that needs to be discussed. And as my guests said  in a conversation we had, we need to change the narrative about how we view people who have mental illnesses and how we  you know, deal with mental illness.

So  my guest today is Rachel warrants and she is currently in her final year of honor, bachelor in community mental health degree.  They'll having spent the last 13 years supporting various friends, family members, community members, and agencies with various aspects related to mental health, whether clinically diagnosed or episodic, she's had the privilege of serving with different remarkable people and in various opportunities related to family and  caregiver support.

Caring for the aging, caring for youth and adolescents, caring for immigrants, and really gaining an understanding of the connection between human emotion and mental health and connection to the social determinants of health. Through an intersectional lens for hope is to pursue a graduate degree next in either social work or in clinical psychology.

Her bigger dream includes running our own practice as well as working with community and government agencies toward a unified vision for  a mentally healthy society. And with that, I introduce to you my guests, Rachel Lawrence, how are you doing today?

How are you? I'm 

good. This  Florida weather is just a little it's cold in the morning. Cool between cool and cold. And then now it's, it's hot. 

It's that time of year, right? You don't know what the weather's doing between one hour and the next yeah, 

it's supposed to, I think it's supposed to rain tonight.

So we've got a lot going on. We've got a lot going on, but I am excited to talk to you today about this topic. As I said earlier, I'm not an expert. And  I know that this is kind of your Bailey wick. And so, you know, we, we just have some questions that I think  you know, you can answer for us and, you know, just get us to a better understanding of mental health and that kind of stuff.

So  what, what do you see currently as the top mental health concern  where you're at or, or just in general? 

That's a, that's a really good question. Because mental health is a very large topic. And I think what most people are informed by are what we see on the news, what we see on social media.  If we're, if we're fortunate enough, we, and for the, for a lot of us, we'll see it in our families and our friends.

 We'll start noticing things that are a little off or different. And I want to be careful about how we talk about mental health here because there's mental illness and we're, we're, we're talking about clinical diagnoses, like depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar, borderline personality  definitely more, more situated in the medical world.

And then we talk about mental health and it's becoming much more of a daily conversation in a much broader sense in that we live with mental health, right. We are health encompasses.  A cognitive component and mental component. So to your question about kind of, what do I see? I see a lot and it's got different names.

That's I think the most interesting thing about it, we can talk about stress. We can talk about overwork. We can talk about burnout. We can talk about exhaustion and we can talk about trauma and the different levels of that. And all of those, at least I believe in my understanding are what we're talking about when we talk about mental health.

Hmm. Yeah. You, you know, you and you are correct that we, and I'm trying to watch how I talk about it. And I, some of the questions I prepared, I just, I wanted to make sure I'm not trying to be offensive. I just, because I think some of the questions are questions people have, because it's, it's a illness that people don't understand.

People don't want to deal with it. And then people that, that, you know, have mental health issues or, or  those kinds of things. A lot of times, it's hard to share that with people because you don't know how to.  And so  one of the things  you had mentioned like stress and overwork, and would you say like  anxiety, depression, loneliness, is that fall into that you think?

Yes. And in some cases, what we see is clinical diagnoses, where they've actually gone through the process of seeking professional help. They've put a label on it, and now we've got  a path towards recovery of some kind, but anxiety, for example, is something that we all have. It's part of our regular genetic makeups.

So when we're anxious about something, it's either cause we're scared or we're nervous or we're stressed out. For some reason, it's a normal response. What happens is when things are severely out of balance or something traumatic happens, what can happen over time? If not dealt with appropriately is that anxiety begins to live in the body in a different way.

And that system starts misfiring. So one of the key differentials that I have, or that we've learned about is that the, the way to differentiate between poor mental health and a mental disorder is that a disorder starts impacting your life. It starts impacting your daily life. So people with anxiety, for example, Struggle with sleep.

They struggle with concentration. They struggle with memory. They struggle with  in, in many cases I've seen it get so severe that they actually can't sit still. So they look like they're sitting still, but their body will fit, will look. And sometimes even seem like it's vibrating, it's shaking and it's a psychosomatic symptom that's happening.

 Anxiety disorders can also have accompanying panic disorders or panic attacks and anxiety attacks, which then become actual emergencies. So then it starts impacting your, your physical  respiratory systems. You're having trouble breathing in a panic attack. It's actually treated like a nine 11 call because it involves the heart.

So things like that that are beginning to be on the rise. And I can give you clear examples of how we're being to see more and more anxiety happen in society. It's something to monitor because we're going to see deeper escalations of instances where people are going to be, ER, for panic attacks, where we're going to see more anxiety attacks, where we're going to see an increase in substance use or misuse or abuse because people are trying to cope.

And like you mentioned, it's not an easy topic to disclose. So one of the biggest reasons that we have as much mental health concern and issues as we do is because of stigma now, in terms of what we're seeing rise in society and all tie in the last two years of COVID with this  depression, definitely on the rise.

Now, what we don't know is whether, and I, I do believe that there's possibly truth in both of these answers. The first half of it is. That people developed depression because they were isolated. You know, the, the state of the world was too much.  There was a lot of  global and social justice issues that came to light during the pandemic that were affecting people in a completely different way.

The second half of it is that there was underlying depression already. And then throughout the pandemic, it got so much worse that we saw additional diagnoses. So that's one of the things to be conscious of when we're looking at statistics and data and information is sort of along the total aspect of it.

Is this something that's happening as a response to the pandemic? And can we solely and clearly state that? Or is it that because we're paying more attention because we're having an open dialogue about mental health that we're seeing more people come forward, we're seeing more people take it seriously.

We're seeing more diagnoses on paper.  The last sort of point I'll make on this is in terms of examples of increased anxiety and I'll use, I feel comfortable using my family here when the pandemic first started, my dad's approach to, it was a little bit of a national geographic perspective.  It was, you know, this happens throughout time.

It happens. So our history, we know that bacteria happens, virus has happened. He kind of accepted it to a certain degree. We didn't think it would become what it did. We didn't think it was going to impact the world in the way that it did or last for as long as it did. And we're still dealing with it. And my dad is not someone who would volunteer, who will voluntarily go to the doctor or get vaccinated, or, you know, any of the above.

 My stubborn streak comes from him. So he's  he was not one to, to voluntarily go. You, he would have to be an extreme amount of pain for me to like shove him out the door to go to a medical facility. And I remember when they announced the vaccines, I was surprised at how quickly he had researched it, find out how to book.

It had booked one from my mom and did it all on his own. Usually I'm the go-to person at home. And for me, that change in his behavior told me that there was more concern there and more anxiety there than he was letting on when the pandemic started for myself.  In my professional role for about two months, I didn't realize that I was absorbing the anxiety from everybody else and it was affecting my sleep and I couldn't figure out what it was.

Okay. I, the other part of it too, is it had disrupted my normal routine and my normal routine included this drive to work. And that's where I emotionally regulated. Like I had my music in the morning. It put me in the right mood. It listened to whatever nonsense was on the radio that morning got to work, had my day.

And then I would emotionally regulate to music on the way back. So at the beginning of the pandemic, because we were in lockdown and isolated for two months, I couldn't figure it out until somebody else mentioned that they were going through the same thing. And then I started clicking all those pieces together.

And that the part and the point that you made is as it relates to a normal routine, I think we all noticed that. I mean, my wife was a teacher and she's used to getting up fairly early, getting herself together, getting  out the door  go to school, you know, Classroom ready get her lesson plan and all that stuff, and then deal with the students and teachers with parents and, and you turn around and do it, do it all over again.

And, for her, even though there are times when that creates or causes stress, that's her routine, which is why she hates summer, because she doesn't have that routine anymore. She doesn't like that. The, you know, a couple of weeks maybe just to do nothing or take a trip or whatever, but six weeks of not being in that routine causes her to be anxious.

 Provides me with stress because I'm still in my routine going to work. And, and, you know, if she hasn't had any kind of activities or interaction during the day while I was gone, it's an anxious moment for her. But if you go back to the pen, It was the same thing. You're not going to school.

You're not you're teaching on online, which, she didn't like doing to begin with the students. Aren't really, it's not the same, you know, it's just not the same. And there were instances. I think I had mentioned  at the military academy, there was a situation where they went into that isolation kind of locked down, folks that were there.

And some of those people  students actually committed suicide. And  and again, listening to what you said, it, it it's even though being isolated and locked down is kind of a, in a, at a military academy. It's, it's, there's, there's some training that used to go on where that would be a part of the training, but you knew it and you knew that was, it was going to end where now you're at school, you're being isolated.

Your routine is disrupt. And you don't know when it's going to end. It's a new thing. And I, and I guess it could kind of be overwhelming  for a student specifically. 

Yeah, absolutely. And you had mentioned something earlier as well about loneliness and I don't know that we can classify loneliness as a clinical mental health diagnosis.

Like it's not in the DSM, but is it a symptom maybe, right. People who are depressed often feel very lonely.  I've known people who are social butterflies. They can be in a room full of people and be incredibly, incredibly lonely in that moment. And there's a lot going on there. Right. So if we're talking about depression specifically, it's not, in some cases, it's a feeling and this is why mental health becomes so difficult because.

There are no physical science, not until it's a very, very late and very progressed. And usually that's a result of either the medication or just poor lack of self care, or  they're, they're using substances to cope, but in all actuality, this, the first signs of mental illness are usually feelings.

People will say, I'm not feeling right. I don't feel right something's off.  I feel lonely. I feel sad and it's persistent and it's consistent. And it's to the point where that is their normal for people who have suffered with depression and anxiety for so long. And a lot of them from what we're learning start out very young.

It starts in  I think the, the last study I read was right around the teenage years. So just getting into your teens, that's where it can start, but the medical, the medical. Field is hesitant to diagnose when they're that young. So what ends up happening is they don't get diagnosed until they're into their early adulthood.

So young adulthood. So there are correlations you can see between how people are feeling, how long they've been feeling that way, different sort of elements of their life and  and ages  how old they are. So that's, I mean, that's really, really tough to hear as well.  Suicide is, it's a very, very difficult one to process and one to talk about as well, and to really understand like the heart of it.

Yeah. So 

yeah, I, I, you know, it's, it is, it's a tough  if you've, if you've had to deal with that or. No, somebody who took their own life or try to  and you, you know, again, it's, as you, as you said at the very beginning, it delicate topic because you don't, you don't want to be, you don't want to be so provocative that you're appearing to be nosy, but without understanding you, maybe you, you, you miss out on signs or, you know, because I think, and again, I don't know, I'm just from what I've heard, you know, in discussions and reading, it seems like these people, before they do take that act, they cry for help.

Now it's not, obviously they don't say, Hey, if you don't, I'm going to go. And now it's not that way, but there's something in their actions or, or whatever that says help me. And that that cries missed many 

times. Yes. And that is very true. So something else that I do, and I don't believe I shared this in my bio with you is I work in suicide intervention and prevention.

So I formally train two particular programs. One is safe top, which is meant for youth, but it's about that initial conversation, how to begin to notice signs and to get comfortable with the conversation around suicide. And then the second program is called assist with just a little bit more  little bit more advanced it's.

So it goes beyond the conversation, goes into safety planning. It goes into resources  and it's proven to be quite effective.  They put a lot of work into the program it's developed by living works and we've trained. Schools and military officials it's and we've seen it do some amazing, amazing things.

And it's a crisis intervention tool and anyone can learn it. And the idea behind it is to be aware and to look for the signs. And honestly, just to remove the stigma around suicide, because simply asking the question or being comfortable, having the conversation then opens up this door. It's an opportunity to maybe save someone's life.

Yeah, yeah, 

yeah, yeah. That's  some good stuff. 

And we know that from people who have survived suicide, they always say, there's always this moment. It's a split second right before. And they'll say, I wish I hadn't jumped or I don't want to die. It's this split second. So. It's it really is something to be able to, to have a conversation with someone about how they're feeling in that moment.

And you're right. People send out lots of cries for help, but we live in a society that is

very focused on themselves. And I say that lightly not to be offensive, but our society is very much about the individual. And so, and we're burnt out and we're tired and there's different pieces of society that roll up into why we are the way that we are right now. But that also means that we're missing those signs.

 Would you say that?

And I want to use the right term, I guess, mental disorders impact men more than women. Are women more than men or is it, is, is the. Absolutely. You know, about the same. 

And that is the noted question.

 Here's my feeling on it. So I think that I'm going to say it's almost 50 50, and the reason I say that is because there's a lot of factors to look at, and it really depends on the amount of research that is done, the statistics who, your research and why and what they're looking at.  We have been socially conditioned, both genders and those in between those who identify as either, or  just as people we've been conditioned to deal with our emotions a certain way.

I think little girls and women are given more leeway with emotion. But one of the things in terms of expressing emotions, but one of the things I've seen is that depending I'm going to narrow this down a little bit to make it  make it a little bit easier to answer. So one of the things that I've seen in women, particularly in my age group, so we'll say mid twenties to mid thirties, there's an interesting shift that's happening in the world right now, because a lot of, a lot of these women are on different paths.

It's outside of the trajectory or the traditional norm of what you should be doing with your life at 25, 26, or you're not necessarily settling down, you want to adventure, or you're looking at a career. And for the first time we're seeing generations that are doing it for the first time. They can't talk about that with their, their mothers or their grandmothers because there's generational divide, right?

So they're learning to navigate all of this and it's new. And what that brings about is new experiences, new things to process. That can be overwhelming because there's no handbook on how to do it. There's no frame of reference kind of it's muddling through life to some degree. Yeah. And mindset has a lot to do with it.

And this is barring anyone sort of diagnosed with a mental disorder, but what ends up happening over time is that negative experiences will start to develop or start to create a sense of negativity. If you don't process it well, enough and depression for me has two sort of pieces. There's a chemical imbalance in the brain that happens, which is why you have medication for depression, but your social conditions can do the same thing.

Right? You have too many negative thoughts. Every thought that you have has an actual physical brain manifestation, whether it's a chemical that's being deployed or chemical being re reacted. So when there's negative instances that happen over and over. Your brain starts to function differently. Your thoughts become different.

So over time, your, your life experience starts to condition how you're thinking. And we see this in trauma, right? And in trauma, if you look at MRI scans, they will show you actual differences in the brain. So to answer your question, so I'm just using women in that respect, because it's easy to sort of map out for you.

But in, in comparison to that, I think about the way that boys and men are socialized, they are, they're sort of moved more so towards physical activity, which is great, right? They don't necessarily deal with their emotions.  A lot of the males that I know don't know how to identify their emotion, they don't know what they are.

They're very sort of one layer. Whereas for my female friends, there's so many happening at the same time and they don't know how to manage. Or work through it. Right.  So in terms of whether it's more prevalent in either, or there's, there's a lot of gray area to be able to clearly answer that question.

What I can say is that there's, I wouldn't bring it down to gender. I would probably bring it down to life experiences and look at social determinants of health. So what has their, what is their socioeconomic status, age, race, gender, but more so from a social context, because that lends to what their social experiences have been.

And that will tell me whether or not they may have a higher predisposition to maybe developing a mental illness. So, for example, in  in indigenous populations, we see very high rates of depression, anxiety, suicide, and substance abuse because their living conditions are so, so poor lack of nutrition. So poor language, poor social and cultural aspects have been hurt over time.

Intergenerational trauma, all of this then feeds into why mental health is so prevalent in those populations.

And going back to some of the stuff you said, I think, you know, women tend to be

more expressive, whereas men and I'll, I'll just use myself in traumatic and dramatic situations tend to shut up. Correct. I don't want to talk to you. I don't want don't be around you. I don't just leave me alone. And so knowing why men and women deal with the same issue differently.  And, and that's perhaps, that's why it's hard to really find the pro a problem.

If there is one, because the male shuts down. So he's not telling you anything what's wrong. Nothing, you know, nothing, Doug, I mean, I'll drink it away or I'll just  I'll get through it. And the, and the lady is, is crying. She's all over the place, yelling at you. And you're like, oh my God, she's going on?

Her sleeve Earl. And again, it's not to make light of either situation because both, both can lead to bad situations, but again, it's, it's more of the, your social  socioeconomic status or, or where you're at, you know, what is, what is allowed or what, what behaviors are acceptable, I guess, in that arena and, and based on what you're dealing with and how you're dealing with, maybe that plays a part in it.

But  yeah, it's, it's becoming clear. Some of the stuff is clearing up for me as it relates to that. W no, if you, if you, if you don't really, you know, it's 50, 50 men or women, do they, would you say that the, any kind of mental disorder is similar in both cases? Or do men have.

You know, disorder and females have this disorder,

or is it hard to, 

it's very hard to, it's very hard to answer that question because one of the reasons that I'm in this program and one of the reasons that I'm sort of on the fact about when that woman masters is going to be in is because I'm beginning to learn about the way research is conducted. And in my bio and I included this note about having an intersectional lens and what I'm learning is that a lot of the research isn't very inclusive.

So what it does is it paints a very different picture and it paints a very skewed picture. So it's really hard to answer the question honestly.  And.

Because of the social conditions and the stigma that is still it's still exists for both men and women around this particular topic. It's also really hard. Cause, you know, cause there's also, there's different pieces to it as well.  How old they are, right? Like is a teenage girl who's going through depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation.

Is that a mental disorder that's happening or is it hormones right? For, for women, we know that they have home one on Mount, not imbalances, but they have hormonal changes throughout the month. Right. So, and it's very quick to be very flippant about something like that. And in actuality, it's okay, but that's a medical thing that's happening.

And in some cases it's more severe than others. Yeah. Women go through changes all the time, right through pregnancy, after pregnancy, throughout change of life, all of those pieces, unfortunately, woman acts a certain way and she's automatically labeled somehow. Right? And this is where that conversation around mental health starts bleeding into other conversations around the way that we perceive and deal with people.

The same thing for men, men expresses himself a certain way, or is expressing a certain emotion depending on who he's doing that to and where it's either encouraged or supported or it's not right. And there's an additional sense of vulnerability there. This conversation around mental health is like I mentioned before, it's a lot about.

And the emotions that we are very uncomfortable with, not just sharing, but being in the presence of sharing that. And that makes it additionally hard on top of everything else. 

And that's why I also wanted to speak with you as well. I think that, you know, the work that you do and that the, the people that do the work that you do are in a, in a special class.

I couldn't, I couldn't do it. I don't, I don't, I don't deal well with  disorders. And then that's the kindest way to say it. And, and, and it's, if, if, if, if I came to your practice and you know, you were trying to diagnose me, I would, I would tell you why. I think that is, I'm not going to tell everybody right now.

None of your business, but, but I, you know, it's, and I'm not saying I have some sort of mental illness or mental and, you know, try again. I'm not trying to belittle the topic. And just, again, the more I hear you talk, it just, it kind of reveals  you know, it's, it's kind of, self-revelation here  and, and a learning opportunity for me as well.

So you did mention something about age and I know, you know, these issues, I'm, I'm assuming that if you can't really, you know, narrow it down as to men, women, top issue, young people, older people, I mean, they've evolved. Like he said, we've all young people have their brand of issues. Older people have their brand and.

I guess it's more of a thing of who, who hides them better.

 Also really difficult question for me to answer only because I kind of fell backwards into this field because I feel like people weren't good at hiding it from me. And so they don't come across as hidden to me, but they do to a lot of other people. So whether somebody is hiding it or not, I think because as a collective society, we're not into.

With it, or we're not talking about the conversation the same way, or we're not being kind enough to each other. And this is not about everybody having, you know, an encyclopedia about mental health and their brain. Yeah. You don't need to know that, but you need to be willing to remember that there may be a mental illness here as to why somebody is acting this way, or maybe something's just happened and use that to kind of inform how you respond to that person.

Especially if it's a stranger, if it's somebody that, you know, for a period of time, hopefully there's enough rapport there to, you know, talk about whatever the issue is. But yeah, I don't know. I don't know that either because human beings can be very, very sneaky, right. Like to put it lightly if they can, if they don't want you to know something, you're not going to know it.

Yes.  You know, I can use the example of suicide that we were talking about earlier. We've done, I've done interventions before with people. And one of the pieces that comes up when we do these training programs is what, if you go through all of this, you do the training, you have the intervention, you give them the resources and any still  it's still suicide.

They still die by suicide. They still call themselves, what do you do that? And you simply kind of have to accept that there's only so much that you can do, right? Like you tried. And somebody who really, really wants to will, they will succeed in doing it. And in that moment, what you need to remember is that you need to be kind with yourself.

You need to start seeking professional help for yourself because vicarious trauma is a thing. If this was a suicide that happened within your friends circle, would they be a family circle? And there is data to show this usually not long after somebody related to that person. Yeah, well that they'll kill themselves because it's, it's the grief, it's the loss rate.

So there's, there's no easy answer to your question and somebody who wants to hide it well, but I think the more people who are more attuned to it, everybody has somebody. So if everybody is willing to develop even the smidge of awareness. Yeah. I think that has tremendous impact. Yeah.

And I think while you were talking, I was thinking, I mean a lot of the listeners that I have, or are veterans who have  been in combat scenarios or combat situations or work with people who have been in, you know, very  explosive combat situations and scenarios. And, and so we know that veterans.

Veteran suicide is, a thing. I believe it's 22 a day and,

it's troubling to hear, but we all, you know, one of the things that we as academy graduates and we kind of joke about it, but when you, if you really, really think about it, it's not funny.  The, the experiences we had at the, the academy were very stressful. I told a story one time where my junior, senior year, if I laid down to take a nap, typically when I woke up, I was clenching my teeth.

Yeah. I had, my tongue was clenched between my teeth and my feet. My hands were clenched.  That was, that was routine. And now some, you know, close to 35, 40 years later, many of us still. Dreams about the academy. We have dreams that we had didn't really graduate, or we still there's one more class we need to take as adults when they make us come back and it's, and again, and not trying to make light of it.

But, but, but if you magnify that to somebody who's been in actual battle or, or seen a traumatic situation  you know, you, you, you kind of start to understand how, how they can easily be affected. And, but, but again, I think then in the overall, how do you without hovering over somebody, how do you, how do you, how do you stay engaged?

Because that whole hovering thing is annoying. 

Yeah. And not, not the way you want to go. So I do believe in. And personal empowerment, right? You definitely want someone to have choice of their own life, whatever that is. And that's kind of an angle that I work from is helping, helping people find hope inside of whatever they're feeling, whatever they're going through and letting them know that there are resources that can help you.

That is the one thing, like we live in an age where we can put together resources fairly quickly, right? Like this podcast, we don't know what's going to resonate with somebody. It might not do them a little bit to go get help and talk to somebody  or clue in to somebody else that might need help.

Right? So we move very quickly in this day and age that way. But when it comes to the military, what I know, and it is very limited respectfully. What I understand about it is the community. Right. So, and it's not a word that's used in that way. Right? It's the military. I don't think they use community as the word, but that's what it is.

It is a group of people together, same values, same tradition, same routines, and same similar, if not same experiences. And you go through these experiences, negative and positive to gather. And that piece about seeing engage in that. The one thing that stands out to me, that's remarkable is that once you're a veteran, once you've left the forest  and the forces, it's the staying connected piece that hurts the most.

And it's also the piece that it becomes more troubling because most of the people that I know that are in the military have been there for years. It is the only life. And then the moment that they either retire or are discharged for whatever reason that transition back into quote unquote turban normal society is one of the hardest things they can go through.

It is painful for them, and it is, it's so incredibly difficult to watch because you know, that depending on their reason for signing up there was good intention behind it, whether it was for themselves or for their country or for their, you know, their mom, their dad, whatever it was, they signed up with this very pure intention, the sense of duty, even, and to not really understand the cost of it because they made it home is a very different, right.

And to now sit with all of that, to sit with the things that not that they've just seen or had done to them, what they've had to do, those are some very hard things to remember. And from what I understand about the military environment, and I would say this is probably also true for any of the first responder communities out there.

Yeah. They, I don't know if they focus less, but they definitely minimize the emotional experience. Right. It's about the training. You rely on your training, it's the diligence, it's the precision. And what's left when you leave and you take all of that away. Unfortunately, it's nothing but emotion. And what is, and it's emotion inside of, inside of your mind and into how then do you begin to unpack that while you're trying to figure out what you're going to do with your life?

Because you're not in uniform anymore. Yeah, 

yeah. That is absolutely true. And, and it, and it falls into. And I, I would share this as well with me. I didn't in the military. I didn't do any kind of, you know, combat or anything like that, but I've seen, and I experienced the same behavior with, with football as a sport.

When you, like you said, you engage in that from high school, it becomes your routine. It becomes part of who you are. You're hanging around with other players. It's all, it's kind of who you are. And then you go off to college and you play, and then you get cut and equated to the NFL as well. You've done all this stuff.

You get to the NFL, you get cut. You don't know anything else. You just know that physical work that you did and now you can't do it anymore. Nobody wants you to do this anymore for them. What do you do? Now you've got to deal with that emotional baggage. Who am I correct? What is my worth? All these, 


It's B that's the interesting thing about community, right? Is that yes. There's something beautiful about having a collective, but you still have to have a sense of who you are inside of that. Yes, 

that is absolutely true. So one of the, one of the things, and you mentioned it probably at the beginning of the podcast with regard to the lockdowns and  would you say that the negative political climate, et cetera, et cetera, is that, would you say that that has caused  an increase in mental disorders, mental health with regard to all people?

Or is there any youth that. Yeah. How would you that? 

I would say yes, because I don't think there was anybody who was untouched by this pandemic. Right. And whether you got sick or you were working, you know, if you were a nurse or nurse practitioner or any kind of medical professional that was dealing with it, there's there's, I think everybody was impacted differently.

 And you're gonna see just like, we're kind of talking about this piece of the individual and the collective, you'll see it in collective. Like, you'll see certain things that'll be the same across the board because, you know  everybody's part of the same purpose. But you'll also see it individually and it'll manifest differently for certain people, for everyone.

It will be always be a little bit different. And the, like, it's interesting because as I'm talking with you the way each person's going to describe it themselves is going to be vastly different and it'll sound similar, but it will be vastly different. And that's the individual inside of the global collective and kind of what we've been dealing with for the last two years and are still doing what  and yes, the sociopolitical climate definitely added to it, or sure.

There are a lot more. Issues that we're talking about more now than ever we're paying more attention than we've ever had. People who didn't watch the news myself included, like I would read, but I don't, I typically don't watch the news.  But we were paying attention. Now we were paying attention in different.

We had nothing but screens for two years. So, you know, all of a sudden we have thoughts and we're waking up to the quote, unquote, waking up to things that we didn't know were happening. And now we don't know how to have the conversations. It's, it's kind of awkward now for me to see people without a mask.

I'm like, you have a face. I remember what it like, you know, and it. Even even, you know, I, I went grocery shopping every day and even that was strange to me. I was like, I don't know if we're still in a capacity restrictions. Am I far enough from the next person? It's funny how quickly we adapted and are we're struggling to revert back to quote unquote normal.

And some people won't, some people won't be able to either because they're immunocompromised or because they've just been, just feel safer in sort of that pandemic way. But even like, I'm, I'm hoping to see my best friend for the first time in like two months. And we've seen each other on scene, but like physically the person, like, I don't know if I'm supposed to hug him.

Do I shake your hand? Is that weird? After like 13 years of friendship?  So yeah, it's  but 

how, how does that, how does all of that, I mean, that,

that plays on our mental psyche plays on, on the human need for. Interaction touch all of that stuff and, and, and you, it, and again, this is my opinion. If we continue to teach people, dare I say, allow people to stop, interacting, to be always weary about who somebody just coughed. Oh my God. And let's start spraying Lysol, what are we doing to the men?

What, how we're changing the mental we're trying. I think we're trying to change it, but you can't, I don't think you can, with that, that need to interact physically touch, et cetera. That's an that even as sick as people are you S you know, you still want the, today. You know, we heard, we heard stories of, I actually had a friend, his mother passed away during the middle of the pandemic and he couldn't, he didn't, 

 Get to go see her. Yeah. And that that's, I don't, I don't,

that's where we're almost to where we're creating problems. 

 And I agree with, right. Like it depends on it honestly depends on who you're talking to because there are some people I know, and there's some people I know who just like, you know, we were independent that could you kind of just accept it for what it is, but to your point of what you're talking about, that human need, it goes beyond just a need.

Our very first language is touch when we're born. It is the first thing that registers it is the first thing that tells us. Whether we're cold or warm or comforted or endanger, it is touch when you send stranger, it is your, it is your skin that reacts the goosebumps. You get the purples, right? Like the heebie-jeebies something is going to get me, right.

Like, yeah. Yeah. It is, it is innate to being human, to want that connection to need it. And when the pandemic took that from us, and I think this is why we saw, such a spotlight on mental health was we really got to understand one what it was to be human. Right. Like that was the flip side of the conversation.

Yeah. And you know, I think about people who and seniors are very, very near and dear to my heart. So my heart doesn't goes out to your friend who lost his mom.  They're near dear to my heart because they're so, they're so fragile. A lot of the time they're out of sight out of mind. Right? A lot of, a lot of seniors are in nursing homes or in long-term care  facilities.

And I know families who are in difficult situations and they can't visit them as much as they want to. Right. And with the pandemic families couldn't visit. And I can only imagine what that did to the seniors that were living within as well as the families. Right. It takes its toll. And how you begin to reconcile.

I would say, I think the first things you learn how to forgive yourself, because there were circumstances that were beyond your control. Well, what could you have done barring, you know, being arrested for breaking port protocol or catching COVID yourself right? Or worse infecting someone else. Right. There was so much about this pandemic that brought into brought into a state of conscious what it was to be human.

And what that really meant and what we wanted for our lives and people that were lucky enough to implement changes and can keep going, are doing that. Right. I mean, we, we saw people make active changes because they knew that they began to realize what they really wanted for life. So all of that ties back to that human connection piece.

Yeah. So to your original question, forgive me. Cause I like tangents, as you can tell  you were asking about, you know, are we doing more damage by the way that it plays on our psyche? And I think everybody eventually has to make a decision for themselves. There's going to be one instance, one person that's going to be worth that risk and you'll take it right.

Yeah. And slowly over time, I think you begin to learn how, and when you'll feel safe, I think also medical advances in technology will further support that they seem to have kind of somewhat of a handle as long as things don't go sideways again.  You know, so over time it will get better. 

So as a professional, like what, what do you put or what are the ways that we help people?

And I'm not a real fan of meds.  And even as, as civilians, friends, relatives, I mean, how do you, again, I think we talked about that a little earlier about just being aware, being, you know, taking things that, like you said, you may, you may feel you're with somebody and you can kind of feel they're not, they don't feel.

The sense that something's not right, but as a professional, how do you help with these issues? 

So there's a couple of different things. So medication sometimes is a necessity, right? If you have, if you have a physical illness and you know that you need to be on medication, that's going to make it a better quality of life for you.

You're going to take it. The same thing applies to mental health. So there are some disorders where they know it's about a chemical imbalance in the brain. They have the medication to make it better so that that person can have a high quality of life. They can hold on a job. They can be in relationships, they can have a full life.

Right. And we have people that have chronic illnesses.  And that works. Yeah. Beyond that, I do think going to therapy. Well, what do you feel like you don't have to, you know, how you go to a physical checkup every year or you're supposed to, I think it doesn't hurt to do a mental health one. Right. Get a sense of what your baseline is.

What do you like when you're healthy? How do you know when things aren't? Okay.  Certain, certain instances don't hurt, especially when they're out of the norm for you. If you go through something traumatic, go talk to somebody, right. And it doesn't hurt to have it be a professional because they offer you a safe space outside of your friends and family.

Sometimes if you can, if you feel like you can talk to somebody who's close to you, that's okay. But one of the reasons the profession exists is because everybody's got limits on what they can do and what they can handle. And I believe that one of the hardest things in life is to have a mental disorder, not be able to do.

Navigate it. Well, one of the things that's harder than that is loving somebody who has a mental illness, because it means that a lot of times that relationship may not feel like it's reciprocal. And a lot of times you have to be extra kind to that person all the time and be extra wary. You don't get to be, you don't get to lose your temper with them when you want to.

Right. So when I think about that, there are plenty of resources. And even then we could definitely do it some more, but there are plenty of resources out there. I think the other piece of it too, is that for everyone, everybody has a strength, at least one, for some people, it's their faith for other people.

It's, it's artistic, it's creativity for others. It's being out in nature, going for a hike. There's something that everybody has that helps them stay grounded or connect. Even for people who feel like there's no hope left and suicide is the only way out. We know that when we engage in conversation with them, there's always something or someone that keeps them anchored here and holding onto that or discovering it, finding it helps tremendously.

It helps human connections, the other piece of it, but that depends on where your humans are. 

True. Very true. And I, I had mentioned in one of the questions I'd asked you before about dementia and you, I don't, is that, is that a mental disorder or no, 

it is, but it isn't classified in the same way because it's

it's how do I say this? It isn't it isn't dementia is the sign of an aging brain, right? It happens to all of us over time.  Obviously there's different illnesses under dementia. I don't know that they classify it in the mental health category. I know that it's definitely living more under the medical side of things, but I also wonder if that's because as you get older and your brain ages, you lose the ability to, to think through things, right?

You have difficulty with memory, you have difficulty changing the way that you think.  And as your brain. Slowly deteriorates, even what you see doesn't seem like it's real, right. It's not registering the same way. So I almost wonder if that's why, and I'm speculating here, but I almost wonder if that's why it lives under medical as opposed to mental health, because mental health will also require like additional intervention.

Whereas I know people that have dementia Alzheimer's, Parkinson's like, those are very difficult to manage from a mental health perspective.  I also know that a lot of the  the disorders that afflict the elderly with additional mental disorders. So for example, in Parkinson's that diagnoses includes depression.

Yeah. So what I've seen in seniors is that often they are prescribed an antidepressant, but Parkinson's is such a. It's such a difficult one to watch somebody go through. I can't imagine what it's like living with it because your brain is slowly dying and it's very, very slow death.  And it's difficult to tell because the I've I've had seniors tell me that they feel like, you know, just dying because there's nothing else that's terminally wrong with them.

What they know that they're not themselves. They, and they're so processing the reality to a degree where, you know, they can't trust themselves. They can't bathe themselves. They need help for everything. They've lost mobility. We can't even eat by themselves. Right. So all of these questions start coming up about the quality of life and what are you living for?

And, you know, I watched so much TV. You can take and even eat the food that you want because your system can't take it. So there are all these different elements. What that experience of life is like for them. So I can easily imagine why depression, why they feel depressed. Right.  I think that, and I, I, I, I think I kinda asked that question.

My mother recently passed away and, and that there was something you said earlier about, you know, when they, when they act a certain way, you can't, you can't respond to the way they act.  Because they don't really understand what it is they're doing. So they may yell at you or throw something at you.

You can't, you, you, you have to hold back because they don't, they don't get that. And so flipping that, flipping that script back to the, the, the family member, having to deal with the parent or the uncle or aunt or whoever who's going through that there there's, there's mental processing that has to go on for that.

'cause you, you in, in a sense or watching your mother, father, whoever die right before you correct. And that's, that's  that's sometimes can be a lot to process. 

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.  Because there's two things that are happening there. One is you're seeing, you're seeing the end of human life.

Right. We, I think to some degree, we kind of, I dunno if I'm gonna, I don't know if this is a, we, this is definitely a me thing, but Rene Descartes said, I think, therefore I am. So in my mind, once we stop thinking, we stop feeling, we stopped connecting. We stopped living. Right. We can be a body on this earth, but without that consciousness, yeah.

We're not. And so there are two things that happen when we see something like that. And we're part of that experience one day. We're seeing the end of human life. So there's something in us. That's recognizing that there you can, you, as a human being know that that might be something that you will have to go through.

So there is this internal reflection or mirror that might happen, and you have to kind of deal with that. But then the second part of it is what you mentioned, right? It's the personal connection. That's my mum. That's my dad. That's somebody that I loved and cared for and was a part of my life in, in ways that you can't even begin to describe.

And what's changing. Isn't just them as a human being, but that relationship, right, those moments have the ability to affect the relationship. And it's so hard, so hard to wrap your head around that. So when I was saying, seniors are definitely near and dear to my heart, the close second to that are the caregivers, because that is.

It is a very, very hard role. It is physically exhausting, but emotionally and mentally as well, human beings, as beautiful as they can be, can also be incredibly awful. Sometimes they have no control over that. And it's so hard then when you're completely exhausted and done everything you possibly can to make them happy.

You don't even get, thank you. It's a very thankless job. And so I've been a job. A lot of people have seniors at homes that they're taken care of, right? So it's, you're not getting paid for it in a completely thankless. You're doing everything that most people don't want to do for somebody that gave you life and somebody that you loved and loved you in return.

And now doesn't know what that means or how to talk to you. 


well, Rachel, I appreciate you sharing insight into. Mental health concerns, mental disorder.  I would go on, but this is what we've talked about is a lot to process.  And it's it's  I think that, I think the key takeaway are, are, you know, understanding that it's out there and you may be, it may manifest itself in you or somebody, you know, unexpectedly, and that people may be crying out for help.

And you have to ask yourself, am I listening? Do I hear them? Especially if it's somebody close to you, a friend, a loved one or whatever, and then, and then just being respectful. Patient and kind and loving to that person so that both of you can get through this. And I think, I think that you can, and, but don't, don't neglect if the need requires professional help, don't neglect that.

Correct. One of the hardest things that I've learned through this journey is that sometimes loving somebody means letting somebody else love them too. And, and realizing that you have limitations and capacity and that's okay because you're human too. You cannot save everyone and you shouldn't try to. So when you're, when you're being aware and you're being conscious, do a little quick check-in with yourself, can I take this on right now?

And at any point, if that changes it's okay. Cause there's resources out there. There are professionals who do this for a living and are trained to do it. And you don't have to do it alone. Yeah. Yeah.

Well, again, I thank you for taking the time out of your schedule. I know you're a busy young lady and  this has been very insightful and, and it, again, it flows into my belief that we have to all start thinking for ourselves, not just getting information from, you know, TV news  celebrities dig into the facts, dig into the, to what you know, what's real about it.

Talk to people who know and, and, and then, you know, make the changes necessary in your life. So, Rachel, I appreciate you again, thank you for being on the show and I hope to talk to you soon. 

Thank you for having me. 

Rachael Lawrence

I am currently in the final year of my Hon. Bachelor in Community Mental Health Degree though have spent the last thirteen years supporting various friends, family members, community members and agencies with various aspects related to mental health; whether clinically diagnosed or episodic. I've had the privilege of serving with different remarkable people and in various opportunities related to family and caregiver support, caring for the aging, caring for youth and adolescents, caring for immigrants and really gaining an understanding of the connection between human emotion and mental health in connection to the social determinants of health through an intersectional lens. My hopes are to pursue a graduate degree next in either Social Work or in Clinical Psychology. My bigger dreams include running my own practice as well as working with community and government agencies towards a unified vision for a mentally healthy society.