Questions About Mental Health Answered by a Therapist

During mental health awareness campaigns, there are often many individuals left with questions they feel uncomfortable asking in regard to such a sensitive topic. In order to gain insight into various topics such as facilitating open conversation or misconceptions, I interviewed local therapist Maria S. Stops. Maria Stops credentials include an LMSW, which is a Licensed Master Social Worker, and a LPCC, which is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor.

First, how would you advise someone that either does not know someone going through mental health issues or who has never personally gone through mental issues themselves to enter this conversation?

I think we should all be talking about more than ‘how are you doing.’ If somebody looks depressed or somebody looks like their having a difficult time just being able to ask, ‘how are you doing, how are things going’ and then pursuing that avenue. If things aren’t going so well why aren’t they going so well. There are things that happen every day that provide the opportunity to have a more in-depth conversation. Just current events, things that happen every day could give people a way to talk more about mental health.

Do you think now days we have problems reaching out to others simply because we don’t want to get too involved or we think what’s their business is theirs and it’s not our place to get involved?

I think we’re too busy in our own lives to really take the time out to ask people if their okay or to do check ins with friends or family or to just really take that time to ask someone ‘how’s it going’ and explore a little further. I think now days our lives or so busy and fanatic that we really don’t have time to just relax and sit down to talk with a friend. I definitely think we do not reach out to others enough.

As a therapist, what are some misconceptions about therapy that you have encountered?

I don’t know think I really hear misconceptions in talk therapy. I’ve never had clients come in saying I thought this was going to be one thing but it wasn’t. More than anything, people are concerned when they come into therapy that we’re going to push or suggest medications. I think that’s a big fear. Rather than talk therapy, behavioral therapy, or working on trauma that we’re immediately going to refer them to a doctor for medication. I think that’s a common fear that keeps people away. It may get to a point where there is a need for a referral for medication, but we certainly want to try a variety of things before we travel down that path and if someone is completely averse to taking medication that’s perfectly fine, that’s their prerogative and we want people to be able to speak their mind, feel comfortable and know that we are going to work with them regardless.

Say a friend reaches out to me and tells me they plan to commit suicide, what advice do you have for individuals to handle situations like that in the moment?

  You have a duty to warn, we all have a duty to warn. If someone says, ‘I hate my life, I wish I were dead’ that’s one thing. You can pursue that question further and maybe they stay at that point, but when someone says, ‘I have access to a gun or medication and I have plans, I’ve been thinking about this’ you have a duty to warn, and that might be a person’s family, it could be a welfare check through the police department. Everybody has a duty to warn, to take action.

Ultimately, mental health is a complex topic that is often difficult for anyone to talk about openly; however, we need more open conversation and compassion in order to combat such a severe and pressing issue. If you have questions or are currently struggling or know someone that is struggling with mental health issues, find a way that is comfortable for you to reach out. Together, we should continue asking questions and taking action in order to shed more light on this issue.


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:


NMSU Crisis Assistance Listening Line (CALL):


NMSU Counseling Center: