182: Tackling Mental Health Issues in North Carolina

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With a population of approximately 9.9 million people, North Carolina is the 10th most populated state. Of those 9.9 million people, close to 3.9% of adults in North Carolina live with severe mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression. (This is according to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, SAMHSA). What’s more worrying is that only 48.2% of adults with mental illness in North Carolina seek and receive some form of treatment. The remaining 51.8% receive no mental health treatment at all. Why is that? Why is North Carolina lagging on matters of mental health? Although the private sector is making tremendous strides in combating these issues, something really needs to be done. And that involves creating solutions that help people seek help anonymously and efficiently.

Dropping a Scholarship to Pursue a Passion Career – 03:54

As first-gens, we pride ourselves on making our families proud. We work hard to go to college, pursue degrees based on our parent’s wishes and get jobs just like everybody else. Our belief system primarily links success to children making their families proud and happy. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But the problem lies in neglecting our passions in favor of pursuing other people’s beliefs. For example, Alicia’s mother was in the military, and so she enrolled in the ROTC scholarship program because she wanted to make her mother happy. Her grandmother always wanted a nurse in the family, and so she pursued nursing in college. Alicia always felt it was her responsibility, as the first person in the family to go to college, to make decisions based on what people wanted. 

Things changed when she saw a social worker doing her thing during one of her hospital shifts. She was impressed by how social workers interacted with patients and brought a smile to most patients in the hospital. That’s when she decided to drop the scholarship and change her major because now, it was all about making Alicia happy. Things were not easy, and her decision to pursue social work was met with frowns and disappointment. Nonetheless, her willpower and commitment to making herself happy made her persevere and just keep on moving.

Social Work and Entrepreneurship – 09:31

If you’re looking for a career with satisfaction, meaning, diversity, and immeasurable growth potential, you should consider social work. Social workers are primarily tasked with enhancing human well-being and helping meet the basic and complex needs of all people. They specifically target the vulnerable, oppressed, and people living in poverty. 

Like most people, Alicia had no clue what entrepreneurship really was when she left college. And so the next sensible thing was to find a job. Nevertheless, after several years in the field, she discovered entrepreneurship. The company she worked for engaged in unethical business transactions, which further gave her a reason to quit her job. The first few months in entrepreneurship, as expected, were the hardest. People in her space were not willing to help, so Alicia made several costly mistakes that nearly derailed her entrepreneurial journey. Now, several years later, with an established business in place, she helps young social workers avoid the mistakes she made and helps experienced social workers launch private practices.

How to Find the Right Therapist – 14:25

The stigma traditionally attached to therapy and mental health has largely dissolved in the current generation of patients seeking treatment. Alicia explains that today’s 20- and 30-somethings turn to therapy sooner than young people did in previous eras. This is especially seen in the New York, DC, and Los Angeles areas. Unfortunately, things are different in North Carolina. When Alicia moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, she realized that people in the area didn’t really believe in therapy. To them, therapy was a sign of weakness, and so hesitancy was the primary order of the day. With that, she decided to launch an app that would help people find the right therapist and do it anonymously. Nevertheless, she believes that the app is only the first step in tackling mental health issues. People in North Carolina need to dilute the stigma and public sentiments about mental health care.

The Most Challenging Aspects of Entrepreneurship and Raising a Family – 19:30

The one thing about marriage is that no one factor makes everything perfect. The dynamics are unique for every couple, and different things work for different people. However, being married to an entrepreneur packs its own unique set of challenges. For example, building and running a business takes hours of hard work, limiting the amount of time spent with family. In Alicia’s case, she realized that she would bury herself in her work every time she got stressed about something. To her, work was like a trauma response. 

As an entrepreneur, be a little intentional about rest and spending time with family. We understand that your business needs you 24/7 but creating time for rest and family is more important than the business you’re to build. Always set aside non-working time to check on your kids and spend time with your spouse. Being married to an entrepreneur comes with lots of blessings and a host of potential marital issues. But if you, as the entrepreneur, are a little intentional about your time and how you interact with family, then all will be fine. 

Furthermore, marriage should not include giving up the things you enjoyed before everything changed. Integrate some of the healthy things you used to do in your past life into your marriage life. This way, you get to enjoy your hobbies and eliminate the feeling of having to give up on your passions just because you got married.  

Alicia Tetteh, MSW, LCSW is a mental health Therapist residing in Charlotte, NC. She attended Virginia Commonwealth University for her undergraduate degree and Howard University for her Master’s degree—both in Social Work. Alicia currently runs her own private practice, Building Endurance PLLC where she provides outpatient therapy to children and adults; clinical supervision for provisionally licensed therapists, and educational training for the community. 

Last year Alicia created the ATTUNE app in hopes of connecting more individuals to mental health services. This year she published, Not Healed As F***, a journal created for those in the helping profession to practice reflection and self-care.

She teaches in the Master’s of Social Work program out of Simmons College and University of North Carolina Charlotte, and Winthrop University. Some of her platforms include advocating for healthy relationships, empowerment, and decreasing the stigma around mental health.

Alicia walks firmly in her faith and believes sincerely in the power of change. She enjoys a good laugh with friends, anything outdoors, reading and family time with her newly born daughter and twins. Alicia co-hosts a mental health podcast 2 Elephants in the Room with a colleague. She is also a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated and sits on the therapist advisory board for Foster Village Charlotte. Connect with Alicia Tetteh on LinkedIn.