Shannon Beasley Taitt, M.P.A., has more than 20 years of extensive experience in addiction treatment and increasing access to care for under-served populations. She’s a public health analyst with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration/Center for Substance Abuse Treatment and resides in Maryland. Taitt is a self-proclaimed “grassroots bureaucrat” who believes in helping everyone get better results for and from themselves.
Rolling out got the chance to talk with Taitt about why it’s important to know your mental health history, especially for women, and also about why seeking counseling is important. Taitt also touches on domestic violence and gives a four-point plan on how to get out. Check out the exclusive interview below. Leave your thoughts in the comment section.
Why should women know their family’s mental health history?
Women should know about their family’s mental health history because studies have shown that a majority of mental illnesses are inherited. If a parent or grandparent suffered from depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, there is an increased chance that you could have the disorder as well. The same goes for alcoholism, people may think this is a choice but since alcoholism is a brain disease, this too can be inherited. Knowing your family’s mental health history gives your primary doctor, clinician, and therapist an advantage for signs and symptoms to look out for and more accuracy in diagnosis and treatment.
We can’t change our genes but the more we know about the mental health history of our loved ones the more success we can have at preventing issues before they occur, having proper support if an illness should arise, and increased chances for recovery.
Give us five reasons why counseling is important for women and men who have been emotionally and physically abused.
I believe that counseling is important for any man or woman who wants to maintain good mental health, whether they have been abused [or not]. It is, however, even more important to those individuals that have suffered from emotional and/or physical abuse. I think the five reasons for counseling are:
- To get support for the trauma that has occurred.
- To learn new and healthy coping strategies and relationship skills
- To rebuild esteem and get a fresh perspective
- To know you’re not alone
- To learn to forgive and begin to heal
What are the most important steps to take when domestic abuse starts?
People have to understand that no matter how much pain and discomfort a person may suffer during a difficult relationship, it may take time for them to actually leave. It is hard for people on the outside to help a person decide [when] enough is enough. That is something a person has to come to on their own. I believe the most important steps are:
- Make sure it is safe to leave – People want to assume that a person can just walk out the door but it’s often not that simple. A person may feel worthless and sometimes guilty about leaving because their self-esteem has become so diminished. A person needs to ensure they have a safe place to go so that an abusive person cannot harm them any longer. They must consider all the safety risks at home, work, and school to create a clear plan.
- Keep an emergency bag – Have a bag full of essential items for yourself and your children if necessary to make a quick escape.
- Know your rights – consult with an attorney or the local police department to understand how to handle children, restraining orders, and other legal matters that need to be considered.
- Phone a friend – Domestic violence can be hard and sometimes embarrassing for individuals but this is not the time for isolation. Find one friend that can be contacted when you leave so that someone knows your whereabouts. This is part of a good safety plan and the establishment of a good support system.
What are three signs that a person needs professional help for adults dealing with addiction of all types?
Three signs that a person needs help with any addiction are the way the addiction affects their ability to work or go to school, have meaningful relationships, or to carry out daily activities successfully. If those three areas of a person’s life are hit, it is time to seek professional help or other support services. In the work I do with Mental Health First Aid, I train individuals and organizations to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental illness and substance abuse. These first aiders can assist people in their community to get the help they need if they are ready to make that change.
Name three mental health disorders that the urban community needs to address immediately.
Three mental health disorders that the urban community needs to address would be anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and substance use disorders. Anxiety within itself is a normal reaction that people experience when they are excited or preparing for something big like a speech or a big game. Anxiety disorder, however, is diagnosed when various symptoms of anxiety create distress and issues with carrying out daily living, having meaningful relationships or affect work or school. Common anxiety disorders are panic attacks that cause a sudden onset of fearfulness or terror and often connected with feelings of doom or death. These attacks are recurrent and unexpected attacks but can be treatable.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is another anxiety disorder that needs to be addressed in the urban community. This disorder occurs when a person has been exposed to traumatic events that cause them to experience distressing psychological symptoms that can become disabling. Symptoms can include nightmares, feelings of anger, irritability or emotional numbness, and flashbacks. This disorder can affect the community greatly if it’s one of violence and distress.
A mood disorder that needs to be addressed would be depression. This disorder could be crying and numbness for one individual or anger and outbursts for another. Most people have felt depressed at one time or another but in this case it would be for a month or more to determine if this person could be suffering from depression. Feelings of discouragement, frustration, or disappointment that become debilitating and affects how a person thinks, feels, or behaves could go undiagnosed for years especially if living in a depressive state all around them.
Substance use disorders are also the cause of many issues in the urban community. People just trying to handle work, home, and family find themselves turning to drugs or alcohol as a way of coping with any negative feelings or stress in their lives. It often can begin innocently by trying to relieve the stress of the day or as a young person trying something new. Before a person knows it, they are turning to the drug or alcohol as a way of coping with any negative feelings or stress in their lives. Since alcohol and tobacco and now marijuana are legal in our country, there is a social acceptance that makes this addiction even harder to break. People who face drug or alcohol addiction need support to overcome their disorders.
With any of these disorders, we need support in the urban community to increase the level of access to care and professional and peer support to increase hope for recovery.