A conversation about MENTAL HEALTH … with Dr. Shawn Ricks

June 21
09:09 2018

By Busta Brown

The topic of suicide usually comes up when famous people kill themselves, such as Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade. It’s a matter of mental health, which doesn’t get addressed much.

“We hear this all time … ‘When I get this new car, when my children go to college, when I make more money, get a better job, lose weight, then I’ll be happy,’” said Dr. Shawn Ricks.

She went on to say, “People like to think celebrities have all the things we told ourselves will give us complete joy, but sometimes people that project this outer joy are still battling with their own inner demons.”

I asked Dr. Ricks what are some signs to look for, but her response wasn’t something most of us want to hear or accept. “The most we can do is be aware, but even with that, there’s no way to stop someone who would like to commit suicide.”

I immediately asked if professional help works. She smiled and responded, “Absolutely.” Dr. Ricks said some people use suicide as a coping mechanism. “They don’t think about it being permanent.” She explained why professional help is extremely important. “Mental health is like everything else, the mind needs maintenance if it’s breaking down. Just like you do with your car, when certain parts begin breaking down, you take it to someone that can fix it. You don’t throw the car away; you fix it.”

I believe a lot of us know or know of someone with mental health issues, and maybe even tried talking them through it or suggest they speak with a friend or family member, but nothing helped.

“We as professionals have the tools to help them. The biggest thing a loved one can be is non-judgmental, because they’re already beating themselves up. We have an average of 60-80 thoughts a day.  That’s a thought every second and a half, and most of them are not very pretty thoughts.” Ricks said the most supportive thing we can do is to offer love and compassion, and the first thing that came to mind was, that’s easier said than done.

I asked for tips. “I came up with a concept I call Normalized Chaos, due to dealing with a lot of the women I see. They tell me about all the things they have to do in a day. Get up at 5:30, make lunches, walk the dog, go see about my father. Then they work two jobs daily and so on. So what is really a chaotic lifestyle, they say this is normal. They say this is what I’m supposed to do.”

Dr. Ricks said women need to rework the way that  they think about some of the things they have to do, “choose choices and delegations to make sure every day doesn’t feel like … OH MY GOD!” I loved everything Ricks shared, but one of my favorites was: “We as women have to understand it’s OK to not be OK.” She calls it No Mask, No Cape. “Try your best to live authentically. What we are in public and behind closed doors are typically two different people. It all ties into to this strong black woman image to show the world; but it’s OK to not be OK.”

Check out more of Dr. Shawn Rick’s interview as she gets deeper into No Mask, No Cape., and why it’s easy to slip into depression, and why so many people, including celebrities, commit or at least consider suicide. She shares how to retrain our brain and live a mentally healthy and peaceful life.

For more of our interview and contact info, go to The Chronicle’s YouTube channel at Winstonsalem Chronicle.

Dr. Ricks is an experienced counselor, speaker and author, specializing in issues of empowerment, social justice and equity. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate, as well as a Licensed Clinical Addictions Specialist.

Dr. Ricks is certified through SAMHSA in Motivational Interviewing, Preventing Long Term Anger and Aggression in Youth (PLAAY), and Strengthening Families. She has also served as Leadership Coach for the SAMHSA Women in Addictions Services Leadership Institute.

Dr. Ricks received her Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and her master and bachelor degrees from the Pennsylvania State University, University Park. Originally from Philadelphia, Dr. Ricks has lived and worked in the Winston-Salem area for over 18 years.

Dr. Ricks is on the board of directors of The Women’s Fund of Winston-Salem and the North Carolina Foundation for Alcohol and Drug Studies. Dr. Ricks uses a holistic approach to mental health and wellness, and draws on her both theoretical and practical information to help clients reach their goals. Her research interests include the psychosocial wellbeing of black women (both inside and outside of the academy), epistemic injustice and the impact of racial trauma on Black women and girls.

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