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An Interview About Taking Care of Your Mental Health: Dr. Keisha Downey

May 14, 2017

Each National Women’s Health Week, we encourage women to pay attention to their mental health. What does that mean to you? We asked Dr. Keisha Downey, a National Women’s Health Week ambassador and psychologist. She offers her tips for staying mentally healthy, plus insights about when to get help.

Dr. Keisha Downey is a psychologist, licensed marriage and family therapist, and mental health and relationship expert.

Q: Can you tell us why you wanted to be an ambassador for National Women’s Health Week?

A: Being an ambassador for National Women’s Health Week is a positive and rewarding experience. Representing such a great cause gives me the opportunity to educate women about the importance of their mental health, which if not taken care of regularly, can negatively impact their physical health.

Q: As part of the week, we encourage women to pay attention to their mental health. What does that mean to you?

A: Paying attention to one’s mental health is key to surviving life’s challenges. It is important to have positive outlets that can help prevent women from internalizing negativity. It is also important for women to identify what their strengths are and rely on those strengths to stay inspired and motivated.

Q: How does a woman’s mental health impact her overall health?

A: If a woman does not take care of her mental health, her physical health can be at risk. For example, if a woman is experiencing depressive symptoms she may experience sleep problems, an increase or decrease in appetite, loss of pleasurable activities (exercise), all of which can lead to issues with her overall health.

Q: What are your general tips for staying mentally healthy?

A: A few general tips for staying mentally healthy include getting adequate rest, eating healthy, implementing a daily or weekly exercise regimen, participating in pleasurable activities as often as possible, and obtaining emotional support from family and friends.

Q: What are some healthy ways to manage stress?

A: Managing stress can depend on the individual person. However, a few common practices include meditation, exercise, positive self-talk, relaxation, guided imagery, and mindfulness.

Q: What would you say to women who feel that their anxiety or depression interferes with their daily life?

A: If a woman is experiencing anxiety and depression that is interfering with her daily life, it’s important for her to seek therapy or mental health services immediately. Therapy can help a person express their thoughts and feelings and obtain the appropriate coping tools to ease depression and anxiety symptoms. Many times, women who suffer from depression feel unloved, unworthy, and isolated. Therapy can help these women identify their strengths and help uplift their spirits when they feel down or depressed. It can help give them a stronger sense of self, gain a better perspective on life, and function healthier in their daily routines.

Q: How can women help each other feel more comfortable talking about these issues?

A: Women can help each other feel comfortable talking about mental health issues by supporting each other. In addition, women can share their experiences and help others find resources.

Q: What advice do you have for women who may be afraid or embarrassed to get help?

A: Women should never be afraid to seek help and guidance when experiencing mental health issues. It is important to not allow certain situations or another person’s behaviors to negatively affect who they are. Therapy can be beneficial because it gives people a positive outlet, in a nonjudgmental environment, to properly address issues.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

A: It’s really important for women to take care of themselves and their health by implementing balance. We work extremely hard to get ahead. We also have to play just as hard to balance ourselves out and to maintain a healthy mind. If you ever feel that something seems off or is not right, mentally or physically, seek the services that you need early on.

Learn more about taking steps for good mental health and how to know when to get help. Find more information on National Women’s Health Week and how you can participate.

The statements and opinions in this blog post are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health.