By: Dani Kessel
It has recently been called into question what makes me qualified to write about mental health topics. I am not a licensed or trained mental health professional. I am not an expert. I will never claim to be (unless I later pursue that and go through a master’s program with licensure). The following article is simply to provide you with my mental health background and experience.
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My whole life, I’ve been passionate about abnormal psych, human behavior, memory, and many other psychology topics. I bought my first psychology textbook at the age of 12 from a garage sale. After devouring that, I went on to the next one, then the next one, then the next one. When I got into middle school, I began writing fiction stories centering around mental illnesses. I’d research every step of the way to make sure I was properly representing the symptoms and interpersonal effects. When I started high school, I threw myself full-force into the world of mental health.
Since then (and it’s been a long time), I’ve maintained my involvement in a variety of ways.
- In high school, in lieu of health class (because I’d already taken health class many times and grown-up with a parent in the medical field), my teacher gave me an independent assignment. I spent a whole semester studying in-depth about 10 different mental disorders and neurological disorders. I had to create my own slide shows (20 slides for each disorder), study guides, a test, and then present the topic to my class at the end of the semester.
- I helped run the mental illness group Stop the Scars for approximately 8 years, organizing and running fundraising and awareness events. (The group became dormant about a year and a half ago.)
- I learned about mental health topics (i.e. eating disorders, depression, anxiety, and self-esteem) in order to mentor young teenage girls.
- Though English Writing was my major, I studied psychology during my bachelor’s degree with a variety of courses (e.g. Abnormal Psychology; Psychology of Women; Psychology of Personality; Human Cognition; Language Theory; and Marriage, Family, and Relationships).
- I still actively read psychology books in my free time. (My favorite right now is The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons.)
In addition to my secondhand knowledge, I have also suffered from mental illnesses my whole life. I’ve been through many types of therapy across my lifespan. This includes CBT, DBT, EMDR, narrative therapy, talk therapy, psychotherapy, group therapy, art therapy, sand therapy, biofeedback therapy, and interpersonal therapy.
I wasn’t kidding. The list is long.
Not only did I learn techniques and skills in therapy, but I also had to educate myself on my own disorders before and after therapy in order to be a self-advocate. (It’s important to educate yourself so that you can be an active participant in your healthcare.)
I recognize that not everybody has the resources I did though. There is a major roadblock to people getting help. Up until recently, therapy and mental illness were shamed so heavily that nobody wanted to talk about it. Bringing up this stuff made people extremely uncomfortable. There were very few places to turn.
So, I decided I wanted to help change that.
I started talking about mental illness frequently. I shared mental health discussions, studies, and information on social media; I still do. I put together fundraisers for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I put together projects to raise awareness for mental illness and break down the stigma. I started watching psychology lectures with friends in my spare time. I’ve been an activist for mental health issues for almost a decade. Frankly, I am not obliged to disclose my mental disorders, but I talk about them often so that other people won’t feel alone.
I’ve been writing about mental health topics for six years.
A lot of people have criticized this because I am not a trained mental health professional. And they are right, I am not a mental health professional. I am not an expert. I am the first person to admit that. I have a far way to go before I ever get to that point. But, I do have a large amount of knowledge and experiences to share with others.
So, complain all you want. I will continue to talk and write about mental health topics.
. . .
From this point forward, the following disclaimer will be included at the beginning of my mental health articles.
[Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional. I do not claim to be an expert. All my writing on mental health topics is based on my own education, my personal experience, researching the topics, reading studies, and fact-checking. I can only provide so much information though. I always advise that you seek out a therapist or psychologist for professional help.]
If this isn’t good enough for you, don’t read the articles. It’s that simple.