We recently spoke with Dr. Angie Stebbins, Market CEO Behavioral Health Kankakee and Chicago North, about the need to break the stigma around depression, anxiety and other illnesses. Here we address the mind/body connection and the importance of mindfulness.

Q: There’s a lot of buzz in the news about the mind/body connection. Why do you think the topic of mental health is garnering so much attention?

A: “Mental health is just as important as physical health and thankfully we have recently seen celebrities such as Meghan Markle and athletes alike speak publicly about their struggles. This courage to share intimate details with the world at large shines a light on mental illness, a topic that is often shrouded in negativity and fear.

As Gymnast Simone Biles said when she withdrew from Olympic competition, ‘we have to protect our mind and body.’ Simone isn’t the only athlete to speak publicly about mental health.  Recently Naomi Osaki withdrew from Wimbledon and the French Open following a public outcry for not participating in tournament press conferences.”

Q: Do you think we will see more public personas come forward and share their experiences?

A: “I certainly hope so as we desperately need to bring awareness to the mind/body connection. Unfortunately these women experienced a backlash which is no surprise given the negative stigma surrounding mental health. People are judged and labeled by others who don’t understand what it’s like to live with mental illness. As someone who works in the field of mental health I wonder how we can bring this awareness and understanding of the mind/body connection to others.”

Q: We’re hearing a lot about mindfulness. Can you please explain what it means?

A: “Mindfulness basically means paying really close attention to what’s going on that very moment without any judgment. So let’s say your spouse says ‘I feel stressed’ try to avoid one upping with ‘aren’t we all’ and instead validate his/her feelings. ‘Yes, you are stressed, I can see that.’ Validation is critical because you are acknowledging that what someone says is important to them. We all want to be heard.

Mindfulness also means learning to pause before reacting. Let’s say you hear a rumor about a colleague that includes insinuations about their mental health. Notice how you’re feeling and your thoughts. Are you judging this person based on stereotypes of mental illness? People often feel uncomfortable or even afraid of mental illness but it’s so important to focus on the facts and see the person, not the label.”

Q: What’s the most important takeaway for people wanting to practice mindfulness?

A: “Be patient with yourself. Learning a new skill can be frustrating and takes time. But learning to live in the moment, without judgment, is a gift.”

Read Part 1

By Dr. Angie Stebbins