Brad Oxnam interviews Quianda Harris, EdD, LPC-MHSP, of Vanderbilt Work/Life Connections-EAP on both maintaining emotional wellness and supporting the African American community.
Brad Oxnam: Hello. Welcome to this edition of the Vanderbilt Health and Wellness wellcast. This is Brad Oxnam with Vanderbilt Work/Life Connections, once again filling in for our regular host, Rosemary Cope. I am joined by Dr. Quianda Harris, one of our Work/Life Connections counselors. Dr. Harris is a Licensed Professional Counselor with Work/Life Connections EAP as well as a Master Addictions Counselor. As I am sure many can attest, this year has been a challenging one to say the least. Our community has faced tornadoes, followed closely by the U.S. onset of the COVID pandemic, subsequent economic downtown and struggles with keeping or finding work, and most recently, the national rise in tensions caused by continual racial injustices to our black and brown citizens by police forces. With all of this going on, many people are feeling a wide range of emotions from anxiety to outrage to depression and everything in between. It can feel a little overwhelming and some may wonder whether or not to seek help with these feelings. Dr. Harris, in terms of mental health, what is considered a normal level of emotional stress, and when should someone consider seeking the services of a licensed professional?
Dr. Quianda Harris: I think what you just stated is normal: a wide range of emotions, depression, anxiety, feeling overwhelmed and feeling stressed. The difference is everyone goes through periods of feeling these emotions; however, if you find that it's more difficult to snap out of it and the symptoms are causing problems in your daily life and ability to function, then it may not be a bad idea to talk to someone just to be able to process your thoughts, and even if those symptoms aren't as severe, it's always a good idea just to reach out and speak to someone, because oftentimes, you know, these things will continue to run through our heads and cause us sleepless nights and increased feelings of anxiety. I find that it's helpful when I say those things out loud sometimes and just have someone to listen and provide objective feedback.
Brad Oxnam: Many are feeling called to respond to current events, namely the Black Lives Matter movement, but some may feel hesitant due to the coronavirus situation. If people want to do something, what options are there during a pandemic?
Dr. Quianda Harris: I am hearing of a lot of people doing things online, for example, supporting black businesses. That has been one way in which people are showing their support. You know, a lot of small business are struggling anyway, so, black businesses have definitely been promoted recently. Another way people can participate or feel as though they are making some type of change and impact is to learn more about everything that's going on. We've had many discussions in the last couple of weeks and one recurring theme is education and finding resources to just learn about the history of black people in America and the struggles and challenges that community has faced. Another way is to listen. One thing that a lot of individuals are finding themselves doing right now is moving outside of their comfort zones and having the difficult conversations about race relations and what they can do to be better allies. Things like that are ways in which people can start making changes in their own personal lives and the professional lives and ways that are not going to be harmful as it relates to the current pandemic.
Brad Oxnam: Does Vanderbilt have any resources for employees who wish to support the cause in some way?
Dr. Quianda Harris: The VUMC House Staff compiled a list of resources for allies at the VUMC Day of Silence for Black Lives and that list includes things people can do, watch, read, listen, as well as other ways to take action. Also, the Office of Health Equity has a list of resources. There are ways and means by which to educate yourselves and just learn more about history, essentially, and why things are so tense at this point, and just for more insight into the struggles that our neighbors, our friends, our families, our co-workers have faced, and to feel as though you are making some kind of impact. So, yes, there are resources available, and if you cannot find them, it's never a bad thing to just ask someone.
Brad Oxnam: Thank you very much, Dr. Harris. We appreciate your thoughts and hope those who wish to will take advantage of these resources.
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