CEO Corner: What stress is doing in our lives!

Posted Wednesday September 23, 2020

By Renee Mahaffey Harris, Health Gap President & CEO

I am concerned about the stress that we are all under during this time in our Country. For far too long we have had a Mental health stigma in our community.  I recall numerous conversations where bringing up seeing a therapist was a taboo topic. Too often mental health, therapy or counseling is mistaken to be for people who are weak, crazy, unbalanced, or just can’t handle their business.  It’s not.  It is for people who are dealing with stress, trauma, anxiety, grief, anger, conflicts, or who just feel stuck.  It’s for people like me, like you.  An unbiased, confidential, professional resource can benefit anyone.

Our 2018 research revealed that many Black women in Cincinnati believe that stress is a major health issue and risk for Black women.  They are correct, according to the US Office of Minority Health:

  • African Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population.
  • The rate of African-American adults who receive treatment/counseling is half the rate of White adults (including psychotropic prescription medications).
  • Most low-income African-Americans who suffer from mental health issues only access treatment when they are incarnated, hospitalized or homeless.


The data points above informed our recently launched the Black Women’s Health Movement, specifically the Mindful Health pillar.  Being mindful means paying close attention to you … your mind, body and soul.  Being marginalized, dealing with racial microaggressions and instances of overt racism causes significant stress overtime and can negatively impact self-esteem.   The goal is this work is to grow our community’s understanding, access and use of practices and services that heal and enable us to live more emotionally healthy lives.

Traci Sippel, a licensed professional counselor, shared “Many people walk through my door skeptical of even the possibility of change by sharing and working through of their trauma, pain and anger.”  Sippel explained that the therapeutic process is about dedicating time for the client to discover, understand, consider, heal and plan.  “It’s not about needing help.  It is about choosing help from a trained professional to provide individual specific insights and strategies in a safe, confidential environment.”  I’m honored to be a part of their journey.”

Our discussion was enlightening.  She talked about nameless Black women and men she has counseled over the years who were able to utter words they never said before, make connections, gain perspective, develop solutions, and to move past decades of pain and anger.  “The strength and courage of these clients astonish to me,” said Sippel.  “I often congratulate them for taking the difficult, sometimes humbling steps toward their first appointment.”

The Health Gap is committed to being an advocate for mental health of Black/Brown people because the evidence is clear … our mental health has significant impacts our physical health.  The barriers seeking help to improve our mental health are well documented and familiar: I am strong enough to handle it on my own; I don’t need somebody else to talk to; there aren’t enough Black therapists; I can’t afford it; I don’t have the time.  Sound familiar?  Learn more about mental health possibilities and get answers to your questions:




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