#NJRR Live Special Reports: Mental Health in Activism
#NJRR Live Special Report
Good evening, everyone, and welcome to a very special episode of #NJRR Live! Tonight’s special report is coming to you at a different time than usual with a very important topic: mental health. One of our close partners here at New Jersey Revolution Radio is Great Joy Counseling and Consulting Services of Clark, New Jersey. Dr. La’Tesha Samson, who runs the practice, joins us to discuss the connection between activism and mental health.
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Dangers of Activism
Tonight’s topic is the result of reflection upon 20 years of activism. Brian has seen the effects that a life of dedicated activism has had on not only him but on those around him as well.
La’Tesha’s practice includes not only counseling services, but also consulting services. As part of her regular job, she helps guide individuals and groups of people to work together succinctly and efficiently. She testifies that a lot of this work boils down to ensuring wise management, encouraging leading from behind, and instilling motivation to work together.
Surprisingly, most organizations that have serious issues have them not because of a faulty vision, or even a bad business model. When there are problems in a company, it usually boils down to interactions between people. La’Tesha’s job is to step in as a consultant and identify those blind spots.
La’Tesha warns that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. It isn’t enough to just have a solid vision for a company or to just really want to make it work. It’s not enough to simply be connected to the mission. They say that a dream without a plan is a wish. To succeed, everyone needs to be working together to make the mission a priority. In order for that to be possible, people first need to be able to handle their own issues, whether those be insecurities, mental health issues, emotional health issues, etc. When people have themselves in check, it is incredible what they can accomplish.
Activism is a dangerous area when it comes to mental health. La’Tesha and Brian agree that there is a tendency for activists to become burned out. This is understandable because activists care so profoundly and passionately for those causes for which they stand. Every day, they fight and many even risk their lives. When activists do not channel their passion appropriately, they often perceive it as being unmet. This leads to a sense of rejection which can in turn lead to depression and, often, burnout.
Self-love vs. Self-worth
Brian asks La’Tesha about something that many of us struggle with, activists or not: self-love. She begins by distinguishing self-esteem from self-worth. For example, most people feel confident about their ability to do something in life. This self-esteem may be tied to a career or a frequent hobby, and it typically helps people feel good about themselves. However, if you strip that thing that they are confident about away, what is left? Self-worth. Self-worth is a reflection of how we feel about ourselves and it is what ultimately needs to be improved in order for self-love to increase.
Without self-worth, people tend to fall into spirals of depression. However, in our society, having high self-worth is often tied to being conceited. We are taught to have empathy for everyone except ourselves. It is important to reject these notions and come to accept and appreciate ourselves, even the things we don’t like and can’t change. In her own life, to put this into practice, La’Tesha periodically evaluates herself and recognizes what she is willing to change to become better.
As previously mentioned, Dr. La’Tesha Samson owns Great Joy Counseling and Consulting Services. She has been in the field of psychotherapy for 22 years. In her work, she utilizes a number of studies, such as cognitive behavioral health. When counseling or consulting with activists, she primarily focuses on dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT. DBT is all about mastering your emotions, starting with the principle of radical self-acceptance. This doesn’t mean we need to stop fighting for change, but it does mean that we need to appreciate the journey.
In our society, many believe that every day should be great but that is a lie told to us by capitalism so that we do our parts as cogs in the machine by going to our 9-to-5 and paying our bills. Part of safeguarding your mental health is knowing what you need when. We need to be willing to disconnect when we need it. For example, La’Tesha will take a mental health day now and again when she needs to, during which she cancels the day’s clients, orders Uber Eats, and watches Netflix.
Brian asks La’Tesha whether organizational leaders in activism have a responsibility to their members not to be manipulative and act in ways that could be destructive to their mental health. This is something that Brian has seen happen many times in his personal life. La’Tesha puts it this way: as an activist, it is incredibly important to know how to say goodbye when something isn’t working out for you. If something does not serve you, it is your responsibility to move away from it. The primary thing we need to concern ourselves with is self-worth and self-love. Does our advocacy within an organization bring us closer to these things?
Self-love in Activism
Activists, due to our nature, are often drawn to assist others, but doing so is not always our responsibility. We have a tendency not to disconnect even when it would have better served us to take a step back. This can lead to distancing and resentment. We need to frequently ask ourselves if the things in our life are serving us, and if not, it’s time to say goodbye. Additionally, it is highly advisable for an activist to check out an organization in detail before joining it.
La’Tesha and Brian reflect on the qualities of a good organization. Organizations, in general, thrive on diversity. A good organization has people with a variety of different personalities and skill sets at the top. A true leader wants to impart their knowledge onto their employees. They are able to tap into the skills of other people and encourage them to use those skills to their greatest potential.
Doing the right thing is all about acting in ways that are kind to yourself. In order for things to fall into place in our lives, we need to practice self-worth and self-love. Whether that looks like choosing your organization carefully, taking a mental health day now and again, or just treating yourself with basic empathy — as activists especially, we need to monitor and conserve our energy.
Dr. La’Tesha is always working hard. She can be reached through her website, her company’s website, or on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. She responds to DMs personally because she knows not everyone is immediately ready to sit in a therapy session.
Thank you so much to all of our listeners tonight, as well as our sponsors, Blissful Infusions and The Coffee House in Edison, New Jersey. At New Jersey Revolution Radio, we love supporting local businesses and we think that you should, too! And while you’re in the mood to support, don’t forget to support independent media by donating. #NJRR Live will return at its usual time at 8:00 PM EST in October! Until then, stay safe and stay well.
-Leah Giannantonio, for New Jersey Revolution Radio