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World Mental Health Awareness Interview with Joy Woods.

Interview with Joy Woods

Q1. What does mental health mean to you? What do you think causes or contributes to poor mental health? I think mental health means to the literal definition. Anything to do with the mind. I think what contributes to poor mental health is the unrealistic expectations we put on ourselves as well as what society or even family members place on us. Also, when we let those expectations define us instead of defining ourselves can create a cycle of depression and anxiety. And lastly, I think diet plays a big role. I am not saying you have to eat only veggies and etc however, I know I personally can tell a difference in my mood and depression levels when I have been eating more junk food than normal.

Q 2. Do you personally suffer from mental illness? If, so when did you notice and how did you take action?

Yes, I have Major Depressive Disorder and General Anxiety Disorder. And I also have three learning disabilities. I think if I am being honest, I probably noticed in high school but it wasn’t the thing to talk about in my house growing up—because we were just supposed to pray about everything. But I really knew about 2 and half years ago when I was seriously considering suicide. My friends called the police and I was sent to stay in the psych ward for a day. It was rough but I know I needed the help. And I have been going to therapy regularly since then. I even take medication. And my goal isn’t to be on these meds my entire life; however, I know that right now I do need them. Especially when I started graduate school, my depression and anxiety really took a turn for the worst. Like I would find myself in a ball on the floor in my apartment crying and I really couldn’t explain why. So I knew I needed to find a way maintain my mental health in order for me to succeed.

Q3. If you suffer from mental illness, how has it affected the many roles you play in your professional and personal life?

It has affected my roles because sometimes I literally am just unable to complete a task. And I have to be okay with that. But it also has affected what roles that I actually take on outside of my school work.

I think it also changed the way I interact with people because I know how my depression can make it seem like I don’t care about things or I can be standoff-ish so I give people more grace. And I am able to practice empathy.

Q4. Young adult years are filled with so many changes and new experiences, such as post-secondary and graduate education, relationship commitments, or starting a new job. What are some effective ways you cope with stress that you would recommend to our readers?

This is a tough one because I too am still figuring out what works for me. I think coping mechanisms change via what season you are in and what type of person you are. I know that I love to read and that personally distresses me; however, being a graduate student sometimes the last thing I want to do is read because that is what I have been doing all day. So I have been learning to separate my “pleasure” reading and my “school reading” by doing them in different locations. I have created a reading corner in my condo and I will not do ANY school work in that area because I want my mind to be free of that. Learning to separate and compartmentalize is really important. I also go to therapy and that helps. I learn different techniques and strategies in how to approach difficult things in my life. I also journal—it allows me to get all of my thoughts out of my head and get done what I need to.

Q5. What advice can you give to A. Rose NFP in our efforts to change the way people in the African American community think/act about mental health? I think the best way to change the way that we think about mental health is that we should just begin to talk about it. Not make it extremely taboo. I think especially Black males struggle with this as well, just like us Black women. We are so used to making things work and surviving but if we make it “okay” to not be okay it will become the norm. It is important to have faith-based approaches but understanding that medicine isn’t always bad can really change the narrative surrounding mental health.


Joy Woods is a Master’s Student at the University of Iowa who studies the sociology of sports and health communication within the education system. When she is not busy completing work for class she enjoys writing for her blog, running with her dog, and hunting down guests for her podcast.

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