The Youth of Utah Advocacy Coalition (YUTAC) is an organization that empowers mentally ill young adults and youth who've been involved the system to have a leading role in shaping policy, ending stigma, and community building. Our monthly newsletter provides a platform for young adults to share their voices and experiences with a wider audience.
IN THIS ISSUE: How To Find Gender-Affirming Therapists, What Depression Feels Like Through Art, Minority Mental Health Month and Fighting Impostor Syndrome
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Though communities of color are impacted by mental illness, they are less likely to access health care than white peers. Further, people of color are less likely to receive accessible/affordable services, and are more likely to experience racial bias, discrimination, and stigma. Similarly, it can be much more difficult for those in this LGBTQ+ community to find affirming care. We need more culturally-inclusive, trauma-informed care. Mental health care is a human right.
The Importance of Finding a Gender- Affirming Therapist
By Athena Schwartz
I am currently in the process of looking for a new therapist for myself. It has been a few years since I last had one, and I have become more open about my non-binary gender identity and neutral pronouns. Since starting my search, it has been difficult for me to find someone who accepts my health insurance and/or is in my price range, who is near public transportation, and who is accepting of my gender identity. Yes, I could just go to one and hope they use my pronouns and don’t question my gender — but, is that really realistic?
According to a 2015 study by the National Center for Transgender Equality, more than three-quarters of trans people want counseling or therapy, but only 58% have ever received it. In addition to other factors, we are often unable to find a therapist we are comfortable with. After talking to other non-binary people, as well as doing my own research, I learned it’s not easy to find a good gender-affirming therapist — the process can be lengthy and tiring.
It is important for trans and non-binary individuals to find a gender-affirming therapist because, when being misgendered consistently, many people close themselves off. It can make people feel dysphoric, isolated, or invalidated. It is disrespectful when anyone ignores preferred pronouns, but when someone who is a licensed care provider does the same, it can be especially disheartening. When my pronouns are not used, I am reminded that this person does not care enough to make me feel welcome or listened to. Therapy cannot be effective when feeling alienated. I am not going to share my full truth, and I’m not going to fully trust the therapist when they don’t respect me.
There are definitely therapists in Salt Lake City (and anywhere) that are gender-affirming, but they may take some time to find or may not check other boxes. One piece of advice that I received from other non-binary people is to start by looking at the Utah Pride Center. They accept most insurances and offer sliding scale services. They have several counselors and are able to recommend other outside resources as well. If you’re like me and hate talking on the phone, you can even email most of their counselors
Another suggestion is to first look for a therapist who is covered by your insurance (if you have it), and then call the office to ask if they are gender-affirming. This is a more time-consuming option but, it can lead to some great connections. Finding the right therapist can be key in anyone’s mental health journey. Reach out to friends and see who they have heard of. There are resources out there, and the ones listed in this newsletter are just a few to start with.
Athena is a nonbinary student at the University of Utah studying Health Promotion and Education and Anthropology. They use them/them pronouns.
(TW) It’s the darkness that sticks with you in the dark and in the light. Depression even blocks the light. It makes you feel numb, angry, and sad. You can’t sleep often, and when you can you never want to say goodbye to the restful dreams. Days are longer than they should be. I often feel as if I’m trapped in a box. The darkness reaches for me, and I forget that I am not what is around me. I am not how people treat me. I am not what you expect. The darkness around me seeps into my mind and turns into fog, making it hard to pay attention. I forget who I am. I forget I am the light in the darkness.
- Haley, writer and artist
Impostor Syndrome When You Have A Mental Illness
By Colin Dively
The internet defines impostor syndrome, also known as the impostor phenomenon, as “a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments, and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud.’” I’m 25 now, but it seems like only yesterday that I was homeless, addicted to drugs, and lost in my own self-destructive patterns. After several stints in treatment and years of therapy, I now have a stable job working for a grant program designed to help young people who are struggling with mental health issues. Every morning (okay not every), I wake up, button down my shirt, and head to a state office building where I work. Sometimes I arrive promptly at 9 AM, while other days, I still struggle to get out of bed because of my disabilities.
I step into meetings staffed with high level administrators and mental health professionals whose names are always accompanied with a variety of letters — LCSW, MSW, Ph.D, and a handful of esteemed titles. Unlike them, my name comes with a different set of letters: SUD, BPD, ASD, and several more which all exist to signify the variety of mental illnesses, disabilities, and stigmas that I live with. Despite working alongside experts as an equal, I cannot always shake the belief that my voice and experiences aren’t as important as their degrees. I cannot always rinse away the deeply held belief that, despite my respectable job, my clean clothes and shaven face, I am still a “junkie” — that some of these things just don’t wash off. Every time I step in to work, sit in a meeting, or attend a conference, I feel the impostor syndrome kick in. Despite all evidence to the contrary, I still fear that I am not good enough and before long, those around me will figure it out as well.
I never truly understood the concept of impostor syndrome until I took this position, and now I understand it more than ever. It’s been over a year since I started this job which I love, but sometimes I still feel out of place. I reassure myself that I have always belonged, despite what I was taught to believe. I remind myself that my role in this world is to help others who have struggled, just like I did. I comfort myself with the knowledge that not only am I capable of being an advocate, but that I am capable of thriving at work. I know that regardless of my past, I do belong here — no matter how much my impostor syndrome tells me I don’t.
Colin is the Youth Coordinator for the UT-YES Grant at the Utah Department of Human Services. He helps edit this newsletter, and loves his cats, his ferret, and hot wings.