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Mullen-Johnson: Mental health checkups key  to overall well-being  

By Crystal Mullen-Johnson

2021 is a new beginning and hopefully will deliver more positive experiences for each of us. Start the new year with a refreshed mindset about managing your mental health which is an integral part of our overall well-being.  It impacts our mood, behavior, thought, and our ability to establish healthy relationships with others. Mental health services have been underutilized in the community and may be considered secondary to our physical health.

Despite the myths that are attached to mental health, there is an increase demand for counseling across the country because of unforeseen tragedies that create depression, anxiety, stress and grief. Counseling is to provide support and coping strategies to help manage mental health conditions.

Counseling in a traditional office setting shifted to Telehealth, virtual platform during the pandemic. While I miss providing face to face counseling in an office setting; nonetheless, during the pandemic I’ve had the opportunity to expand my services through Telehealth and provide accessibility to treatment directly in your home via a tablet, personal computer or cellphone device.

I have found a disparity between men and women in use of telehealth mental health services. In fact, according to Teledoc “although men with a mental illness are less likely to receive treatment than women, mental health telehealth visits for men are up 79 percent when compared with January [2020], versus 75 percent for women.”

As a community we should support all people, but especially men, to seek out mental health treatment, as they are less likely to seek help. If a Telehealth platform creates a more conformable and viable mode of treatment, please encourage our men and all people to explore all treatment options. Counterintuitively the pandemic created opportunities for people to receive therapy that has foregone visits to a traditional office setting for therapy.

As a result of the ongoing crisis in our country mental health impairments have affected us in various ways. Science Direct reports, “relatively high rates of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, psychological distress, and stress were reported in the general population during the COVID-19 pandemic in eight countries.” Ways to address these impairments dependent on individual circumstances.

Any time is time to contact a mental health or healthcare provider if you are experiencing the following symptoms: 

  • If your mental health has been impacted by a traumatic experience
  • If you recognize a loss of interest in activities
  • Increased substance abuse use
  • Decreased self-confidence
  •  Poor performance at work/school
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Poor money management
  • Loss of purpose in life
  • Changes in your appetite/loss
  • Depressed mood for two weeks

This year as you routinely schedule annual medical visits with your provider for a check-up, consider scheduling a checkup with someone that specializes in mental health.  Ask your primary care physician for a recommendation for a provider. Know you health care coverage. If you have health insurance, you should check with your provider about behavioral health care coverage.

As stated by author and professor Brene’ Brown, “Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” 


Crystal Mullen-Johnson is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Registered Play Therapist in Birmingham with more than 16 years of experience in providing counseling. Strive Counseling Services is a private practice located in downtown Birmingham. Contact us at (205) 721-9893 to inquire about Telehealth Services or visit Strive Counseling Services—http://www.strivebhm.com