"There is no easy way but there is a way, and so we have to follow a path of positive, focused, and motivated direction," Dr. English continues. "There is no getting out of this by following a path of destruction."
[Byrd’s Eye View]
On Mental Wellness
Dr. Elisa English is mental health professional with a PhD in clinical Social Work for the past 10 years. Also known as the Provocative Doctor, she’s built a practice that targets issues confronting many of the challenges that plague our society, from suicide to depression. She especially wants to empower women and young girls.
“If you need Help just ask for it, there’s nothing bad about it; we all suffer from something,” says Dr. Elisa English, who shares
many words of encouragement when she speaks about dealing with depression. I was privileged to engage in a conversation with Dr. English recently in New York City.
We spoke about Mental and emotional health; how they affect so many people, ranging from celebrities –some of whom are her clients– such as Genuwine, to regular people. To his credit, Genuwine has been sharing his own experience with others to help them fight back, through his organization called S.P.R.U.C.E. that addresses this same topic.
Others who have engaged in their own struggles include Maia Campbell, Whitney Houston, Eminem, Russell Simmons, Fantasia, and Kanye West, just to name a few.
Many people, including my own family, deal with these struggles. There is a false perception that if you are successful, you don’t suffer from the same demons that torment ordinary people. Dr. English explains that many people don’t realize that those in the media or high profile positions, and seem to be larger than life — particularly the young ones, aged 25 and under– suffer from all sorts of social conditions and also mental health afflictions.
Genuwine has been open and honest about his drug addiction and suicide attempts, following the deaths of both his parents within a short time span. Fantasia attempted suicide a few weeks ago; Russell Simmons has fought addictions; and Kanye West has a lot going on in his life.
“We are always constantly trying to improve ourselves,” Dr. English says. “The best message that everyone can send to all of our young people is that we are all struggling through this thing called life.”
“But what we want you to understand is that there is no easy way but there is a way, and so we have to follow a path of positive, focused, and motivated direction,” she continues. “There is no getting out of this by following a path of destruction.”
Therapy, which Dr. English also offers, is one of several solutions for dealing with the affliction. “Spirituality, exercise, anything that is a positive outlet for you is the only way to go to try to address this thing called life,” she says.
Far too Often in the Black community, mental illness is ignored or passed off as a “white disease” which causes more than 50% of people afflicted not to seek help of any kind or acknowledge that they have a real illness.
“It has a lot to do with some of the stigma associated with mental health and the fact that in so many communities of color there is a strong spiritual grounding and we believe that because of our relationship with a higher power that this will address mental health conditions,” Dr. English adds. “Part of the issue is, we haven’t understood the severity of mental health, brain
disorders, and various other conditions associated with the development of human behavior and the development of the brain in general.”
Mental and emotional illness have many degrees of severity; much in the same was as diabetes has Type 1, 2, and 3, Dr. English says. Similarly, other ailments, such as heart disease, also have different critical levels. When left untreated mental illness can only get worse and cause tremendous harm.
Dr. English introduced a concept, and while I had never made the connection, it made much sense: That self-esteem and mental health are traveling companions. A bad relationship could be a sign of illness. “The more we are in unhealthy relationships speaks volumes to how we begin to maneuver in life, how we perceive ourselves,” she says.
“It can really have an impact on our inter-personal skills and potentially have an impact on future relationships with the same or opposite sex.”
She explains that even though you may not have a severe mental or emotional illness, by staying on in a bad relationship, There’s some compromising of your self-esteem and self confidence. “Just about all of us suffer from stress and depression and this makes it easy to over look behavior that may need close monitoring,” she adds. “People are just so overwhelmed by various experiences in their life and they get to a point where it’s out of control and they are unable to manage.”
Some people resort to outlets or behavior that are not helpful. Are there signs that a person could be so afflicted that they become suicidal? “Some of the signs I learned are isolation, over-eating and other addictions like drugs, outbursts, and again poor relationships that makes you wonder why a person would be in or stay in, are all areas that should be looked at before spiraling out of control,” Dr. English observes.
The unique approach that Dr. English used is called Provocative Therapy. I was intrigued by this and wanted to know how it works. “Provocative Therapy is really grounded in psycho-analytic theory which is the basic start of where the client is. Really approaching things from the past, looking at a person’s past to determine where they are in the present and where they are going in the future,” Dr. English explains. “But more importantly Provocative Therapy provides an opportunity for the client to be self-reflective and somewhat make light of the situation. I’m not saying that they shouldn’t take it seriously but they should at least have this opportunity to begin to think about it and almost find humor in it. Begin to find the power, peace and strength perspective of it”
So Provocative Therapy honestly looks at the happy side of a situation, because as bad as all things may be, there is a happy side, whether it’s a bad relationship that taught you something, or a family member who passed away from a really severe illness,” she continues. “And you feel like at this point that they’re in a more peaceful place. It’s for you to kind of find that peace with-in yourself. And find that place to say, ‘you know what?
Life has to go on and I have to take all these things as learning opportunities and not allow them to stop me and bring me
down and take me totally out of control of what I need to do to move forward.'”
I love Dr. English’s phrase “a happy girl makes a happy world.” We spoke about development of young girls. They are at a most crucial time starting from birth to five years old. “Women tend to suffer from depression at a much higher rate than men,” she says. “And one in three women will experience clinical depression which is a much more severe form of depression where women feel a sense of isolation, alienation, and are concerned with growing older, about their role in the family, relationships, will they have work?”
Much of her work involves empowering women and girls so they can see how strong, important and valued they are in this society and also to keep them socialized around other women.
I really like the fact that her work is done around exercise which is very beneficial to good health overall including mental wellbeing. Some of the fitness activity includes pilates, yoga, belly dancing, and even pole dancing. Dr. Elisa has found some transforming effects related to pole dancing and many women has experienced great outcomes from it.
Dr. English herself has been through some really trying times. She decided to use her strength to push through. Her drive was rewarded with a Masters degree and a PhD and many more accomplishments throughout her life. I am elated that she chose the path to encourage others to know their worth and dig deep to muster up the strength to push on.
What were some of the things that motivated her past her own obstacles? “There has to be resiliency, motivation, drive, and focus,” she says. “It comes from genetics, environmental influences, and some comes just because you say ‘I refuse to fail.’ The natural fight or flight kind of thing that we have.”
Dr. English feels that what we all can do something to be good role models to young people. “Since they are visual people, they really need to see that there are cool people, that are smart,” she says, noting that so many young people have already reached out to her.
She is here to help both men and women, she says. “All over the world people are suffering. We need to dig deep into our inner strength and hold on to it. Let it guide us into the direction for us to grow. And if we need help, please just ask.”
To reach Dr. English please visit www.provocativedr.com or www.askdrelisa.com. You can also call toll free at (866) 650-2676 email: [email protected]
The author can be reached via [email protected] Please also visit www.shavaughn.com
“Speaking Truth To Empower.”