Celebrate Pride

Mental Health and Men in the LGBTQ+ Community

Celebrate Pride

By: Shelly-Anne Johnson, LCSW

According to the CDC, “…compared to other men, gay and bisexual men have higher chances of having; Major depression, Bipolar disorder, and Generalized anxiety disorder… Gay and bisexual men are more likely than other men to have tried to commit suicide as well as to have succeeded at suicide.” The majority of gay and bisexual men are able to gain and maintain good mental health, but there is a large number of them who are not. There is a double standard for being a gay or bisexual man in American society. They are judged harsher than their female counterpart in part because of the traditional roles that men are prescribed, and toxic masculinity that permeate our culture. Men are often taught to hide or dismiss their emotions, making it even harder for them to reach for help when they need it. The environment of discrimination and hate that some men fall victim to can be confusing to navigate. They are ostracized for keeping their sexuality a secret, and ostracized for coming out.

What it means to be “Out”

While being “out,” or in other words-being open about your sexual orientation, has been linked to better mental wellbeing, for some men, being out does not equal better outcomes. Some are alienated from friends and families due to living in their truth. Others face discrimination or worse, become victims of hate crimes. Family and friends might be at a loss for how to help, and feel out of their depth in supporting a loved one.

Where can men in the LGBTQ+ community go for support

There is help out there. There are safe spaces created for men who identify as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Resources in local churches and communities as well as some online resources like the Trevor Project can be very beneficial. Pride is another space where people in the LGBTQ+ community can connect with others who may be having similar life experiences. Pride teaches men that they are not alone, they do have a space where they belong. Pride helps to validate feelings of being loved and supported.

It is ok to ask for help, it is ok to get the support you need.

Additional Resources & Reads:





Professional Spotlight: Kirsten Moore

Kirsten Moore, Psy.D.

Meet Kirsten Moore, Psy.D. She is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, who has specialized training providing assessment testing and psychotherapy. She is intensively-trained in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), which she provides to children, adults, and families. Dr. Moore also teaches DBT classes and Coping Skills classes to adults, adolescents, and children. DBT is particularly effective in treating anxiety and depression, eliminating suicidality and self-harming behaviors, improving interpersonal difficulties, treating trauma and abuse, and living a Life Worth Living. Dr. Moore uses DBT and mindfulness skills in her everyday life and has found these skills can be useful to anyone.

Dr. Moore is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist who earned her Bachelor’s degree at North Carolina State University and her Doctorate from Georgia School of Professional Psychology / Argosy University in Atlanta. Her training includes work at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish-Rite, community mental health centers, private practice settings, and numerous schools in Atlanta and Los Angeles. She specialized in Child and Family Clinical Psychology and is well-versed in assessment testing and the creation of IEPs and Section 504 Plans. Dr. Moore is the founder and Clinical Director of Balance & Potential Inc. in Alpharetta, Georgia.

Ridgeview is very excited to have Dr. Moore join our list of presenters this year for a virtual offering of DBT essentials. This session will be a great compliment to the roll out of our new programs as DBT is slated to be a big part of them.

Real Men Do Cry

Real Men Do Cry

Real Men Do Cry

By: Shelly-Anne Johnson LCSW

“Be a man and take care of it… Real men don’t cry… You’re real sensitive for a guy.” These comments and others like these are often told to men when they try to be open about their emotions. Most men in the United States are raised in a culture that frowns upon their emotional expression. Men are taught at an early age that it is not manly to cry, or to speak about the emotions they are feeling. When left unexpressed, these emotions do not go anywhere-they remain in the system, stuffed down and ignored until they become a full blown mental health crisis.

While society would have us believe that women are far more emotional than men, and that women face more mental health crisis than their counterpart; the numbers support the contrary. Research shows that men die by suicide 3.5x more often than women. It is hard to ignore this alarming number and even harder to deny the fact that something is inherently wrong with the way society treats male emotional expression. Ignoring their emotions and pretending that stress and mental strain does not affect them is not working. This is evidenced by the fact that nearly 1 in 10 men experience depression and anxiety: According to a poll of 21,000 American men by researchers at the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), nearly one in ten men reported experiencing some form of depression or anxiety, but less than half sought treatment.

What these numbers tell us is that men are suffering in silence. They are not being supported and are resorting to drastic measures such as addiction and self-harm to alleviate their emotional anguish. According to MindWise, “Men are almost two times more likely to binge drink than women: Not only do men binge drink more often than women, men consistently have higher rates of alcohol-related deaths and hospitalizations. Men are also more likely to have used alcohol before dying by suicide.” How can we become an ally? We start by admitting that the problem exists. We stop perpetuating the negative stereotype that says men are soft if they are emotional. We let them know that it is ok; it is normal to feel and express emotions. We then create safe spaces where the men in our lives feel supported and comfortable enough to open up about the way they are feeling.

Ridgeview Institute understands how hard that can be. This is why we are committed to providing support for the men in our community who are suffering from mental health or substance abuse issues. We have men’s programs at each of our two locations specifically designed to meet the unique needs of the male population. Our doors are open 24/7 to support you and your loved ones. We offer no cost assessments to help begin the journey to wellness. If you or someone in your life is struggling and needs support due to deteriorating mental health; you cannot afford to wait-seek help today!

Effective Tools For Best Outcome

Professional Spotlight: Luca Valentine

Effective Tools For Best Outcome

Meet Luca Valentine (aka Lucia Caltabiano) (they/them). They have over eight years’ experience in mental health, with five years post masters. They have most of their experience in substance use and eating disorders, and have been working almost exclusively within their community for two years providing individual, group, and family therapy. Luca received their Bachelors of Psychology at GC&SU and their MSW at UGA.

Their passion and love for their community led them to pursue a career helping transgendered individuals and their families through transition. Ridgeview is proud to have them train staff and others in the mental health field who serve the transgendered population on how to best support them.

They discuss 3 Objectives during this virtual event:

  1. Walk through the 5 stages of grief that parents/caregivers often identify after a child comes out and how to process that grief with their own provider and not with the adolescent in transition.
  2. Learn three common examples of transphobic language and provide three exercises for parents to practice affirming language as well as practice validation even when they cannot understand the transgender experience.
  3. Cover three psychodynamic theories that can help facilitate empathy within parents/caregivers for child’s experience: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Minority Stress Model, and Polyvagal Theory.

According to Luca, family therapy is an exceptionally complex undertaking and different modalities approach this type of care from different angles. The need of immediate family of a transgender child or adolescent are unique and informed by both the coming out/transition process and culture within the home. They designed this continuing education course to cover the finer points of what to, and not to ask during the assessment period, within treatment, and how to help inform a safer space for the youth in transition.

Thanks to providers and educators like Luca, we are closer to bridging the gap of understanding between transgendered individuals and their families. Join us Friday, 6/3/22 for this dynamic learning event.

Register here:

Building Self-esteem by Harnessing the Power of Thoughts

By: Shelly-Anne Johnson

Self-esteem is so much more than thinking positively about yourself. It is wrapped in the way you feel about yourself at your core. It is the confidence you have in your own worth, your value, your abilities, and the respect you have for yourself. It shapes the way we show up in the world and the regard we have for ourselves and others. Self-esteem directly influences the choices and decisions that we make.

There are three major types of self-esteem: Low self-esteem, Inflated self-esteem, and High self-esteem. People with low self-esteem tend to look down on themselves and think they are below average. Some effects of low-esteem can include poor relationships, depression, anxiety, addiction and other mental health concerns. On the other end of this spectrum is inflated self-esteem. These people tend to think they are better than, and look down on others. This can also lead to relationship issues as they are often not capable of meaningful relationships partly because of their lack of attention to the needs of others. People with high self-esteem tend to have a better balance and fall in the middle of the two. They believe in themselves and their abilities. They are often very confident which allows them to be themselves without the fear of being judged. These people are typically team players as they recognize the value that they and others bring to a team.

The shift from inflated or low self-esteem to high esteem can be achieved through the power of your thoughts. You have the ability to harness your thoughts and beliefs in order to become the person you intend to be. Here are a few steps you can take to shift your mindset:

  • Become Mindful of your thoughts and beliefs about yourself and others: Ask yourself if these beliefs are true and if you would say them to someone you care about. If the answer is no, then you shouldn’t say them to yourself either.
  • Challenge negative or inaccurate thinking: Don’t be afraid to challenge long seated beliefs if you know they are negative.
  • Pay attention to thought patterns that eat away at your self-esteem: Examples include converting a positive to a negative, jumping to negative conclusions, negative self-talk, etc.
  • Adjust your thoughts and beliefs: Use hopeful statements, avoid “should” and “must” statements, encourage yourself, forgive yourself.
  • Practice Self-Compassion: Accept yourself as a work in progress.

The bottom line is; you get to choose how you show up in the world. We all have things on our past, both negative and positive, that shape the people we are. It is up to us to decide if we will grow from these life events, or let it keep us in a negative place. The road to true self-acceptance is not an easy one, but the reward of high self-esteem that comes with it is priceless.

The Kids Are Not Alright

By: Shelly-Anne Johnson LCSW

Our kids are in trouble. While the rates of drug and alcohol use and teen pregnancy are down, the rate of mental health issues have grown exponentially among adolescents in the past few decades. Kids are reporting and are being diagnosed with mental health disorders at an alarming rate. Diagnoses like depression, anxiety and ADHD are now common place among teens. The suicide and self-harm rates continue to rise in all demographics. What is causing this uptick and alarming trend in our kids? There are a few hypotheses, but many are nuanced.

Possible reasons for the increase in mental health issues include the rise in awareness. Thanks to more public acceptance and acknowledgement of mental health concerns in kids and adults, people are becoming more sensitive to the existence of mental health signs and triggers in ourselves and others. Another reason could be the increase in social media participation and online influences that kids today are submerged in. What are the kids watching? Who are their influences? It is almost impossible for parents to shield their children from all the information readily available to them.

One factor could be the fact that kids have been reaching maturity younger over the last century. The age of puberty onset has dropped markedly for girls, to 12 years old today from 14 years old in 1990; the age of onset for boys has followed a similar path. With puberty having an earlier onset, the body is going through hormonal changes and the brain becomes hypersensitive to social and hierarchical information. Laurence Steinberg, a psychologist at Temple University reports that the falling age of puberty has created a “widening gap” between incoming stimulation and what the young brain can process: “They’re being exposed to this deluge at a much earlier age.”

The isolation from Covid also triggered feelings of sadness and loneliness in kids who are at an age where social interaction is a crucial component of healthy development. On the playground is where they learn boundaries, social cues, and begin to explore who they are and mirror who they want to become. This is where they learn how to be a team player and make friends. This is where many learn emotional regulation and conflict resolution. Humans are naturally social creatures and without these interactions we are left with a sense of lack.

Most schools are planning to have kids return to the classroom for the next school year. This can be both a positive and negative thing. On one hand, the kids will be in the company of their peers, and one other hand, with school comes anxiety and stress. Our kids need the tools to succeed at school, and in all their environments. It is not too late for them to turn the tide. The brain is amazing, and with new coping skills, kids can build new, more adaptive neuropathways. This will make them more equipped to face the upcoming challenges of the new school year and beyond.

At Ridgeview, we have seen an increase in hospitalizations among kids struggling with depression, anxiety and self-harm. Many of these kids express feelings of sadness and loneliness. Some report having suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts. We have to help our kids now. With this in mind Ridgeview has designed a specialized summer series for the kids in our outpatient programs to meet their unique needs. “Summer G.A.M.E.S” was designed to address the most common school triggers adolescents face today. Our treatment programs will enable students to learn how to balance their mental health and academics & prepare them for a positive school year ahead.

This cannot wait. Contact Ridgeview at 770-434-4567 for our Smyrna location or 678-635-3507 for our Monroe location to see how we can help your family through this trying time. Remember, it takes a village.

Read More About the Mental Health Crisis Among U.S. Teens Here:

Professional Spotlight: Dr. Mary Gay

Meet Dr. Mary Gay, a Licensed Professional Counselor of GA, Certified Professional Counselor Supervisor, and consultant who has been in private clinical practice since 1995, where her specialties include developmental trauma and substance use disorders. She has presented at numerous conferences and workshops on a variety of topics including attachment and trauma, workaholism, understanding addiction as an attachment disorder, countertransference, supervising “wounded healers,” and the ethics of treating trauma. She recently co-founded the Southeastern Counselor Training Institute to present and host quality continuing education workshops on the practice of counseling and psychotherapy. In her spare time, she is the Evening IOP Coordinator for The Summit Wellness Group, a drug and alcohol treatment program in Roswell, GA. She is a member of the American Counseling Association, the Licensed Professional Counselor’s Association of GA, the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision, and the Georgia Addiction Counselors Association.

We are proud to have Dr. Gay presenting an upcoming CE offered to mental health professionals on Healing Broken Bonds, where they will be learning how Healing Developmental Trauma Through an Attachment Lens can have a profound effect on client outcome. This workshop will consist of an overview of Bowlby’s attachment theory and the current neurobiological research (just the basics!) on the impact of developmental trauma on attachment processes. Participants will learn how to identify attachment disruption and trauma symptomology in adult clients. An introduction to research-based interventions from an attachment-informed theoretical model will be reviewed. This workshop has an experiential component that will stimulate the counselor to reflect on his/her own attachment experiences.

At Ridgeview, we are committed to providing the education necessary to promote positive outcomes for the community and people we serve. Join us on May 20th at 9am via zoom for this informative CE and earn 5 core hours.

Click here to register

Mental Health Awareness Month: The Path to Continuing Strength and Resiliency

By: Destiny Redmond, M.S., APC, NCC, CTP

It’s officially May, and we have once again made it to Mental Health Awareness Month. For the past year, many of us have experienced distressing times that plagued us while in the pandemic. We have lost loved ones, friends, jobs, and missed out on many occasions that we would often spend together worldwide. For lack of better words, this pandemic has given us a “new normal,” which often results in complete isolation and gives rise to loneliness. Even throughout our history’s previous pandemics, we have endured massive loss and change. However, as with each pandemic, we also have demonstrated how resilient we are despite the impacts. In the twenty-first century, we have utilized innovative devices such as the world wide web to work, learn, heal and generate ideas and ways to connect with others safely.

We have also used it to laugh and challenge each other to enjoy life regardless of our current crisis. Although the current pandemic is only a tiny part of our lives that can affect our mental well-being, it is vital to be aware of our current mental state and know how to improve our mental health. While previous pre-pandemic tactics may have worked, the pandemic has generated new problems, such as lack of access to care. Fortunately, mental health professionals have also shifted to technology, providing internet-based services to expand their access and meet the needs of the people.

Nevertheless, it is still essential for us to speak up and reach out to available resources to get our care. We may never know who is available to help or what new services we have to access if we don’t try or ask. Help can be as simple as calling a local or national hotline or speaking with your local healthcare professionals. This is why Mental Health Awareness Month is so important. Mental health awareness helps educate, empower, and most importantly, highlight available resources, giving us a gentle reminder that we are in this fight together no matter the circumstance.

What Ridgeview is Doing to Help Seniors in Isolation

By: Shelly-Anne Johnson LCSW

As the population of the aging increases in America, we are seeing a deficit in trained caregivers and a lack of suitable facilities for seniors to be housed in. As a result, many seniors are living in isolation with no contact from family members, and are hardly leaving their homes or visiting loved ones themselves. With children growing up and moving out of the home, and the inevitable loss of family members and friends with age, seniors are at a higher risk of isolation than the general population. In fact, according to Aging In Place, one-quarter of seniors (aged 65+) report feeling socially isolated and lonely. Social isolation carries very real cognitive and physical repercussions for seniors. Seniors in isolation are at an increased risk of premature death, heart disease and stroke to name a few. The pandemic gave rise to these issues and others due to higher levels of forced isolation which caused isolation rates among seniors to skyrocket from 27% in 2018 to 56% at the peak of the Pandemic in 2020.

How is this affecting their mental health? Aging In Place reports an increase in cognitive/mental health issues like depression, impaired executive function and an accelerated cognitive decline for seniors who are in isolation. These physical and cognitive declines can serve as a warning to caregivers and others to take a moment to consider the seniors in their lives, and what they can do to support them. As Dementia becomes more prevalent with age, isolation serves as a vehicle to speed up that process. You can help! When physically being there with a loved one is not possible, utilizing video platforms such as zoom allows family members the opportunity to still have access to a senior loved one, making them feel less alone. Finding senior support groups and activities in their area can also be a way to get your loved one more engaged. There are many components to senior social isolation, and there might not be an apparent solution for you and your family. Sometimes the family may need professional support to show them options for help that they might not have known were available.

If you have noticed declines in a loved one’s cognition and their ability to care for themselves, it might be time to ask for help. At Ridgeview Institute Smyrna, we have specialized programs designed for seniors with cognitive decline. We saw the great need in the community and created a space where loved ones can bring their family members, and know that they will be getting the support they need through accurate diagnosis and treatment. All while making sure that they are surrounded by a caring, supportive community of trained staff and their peers.

Read more about senior isolation here:

5 Self-Care Tips to Reduce Stress

July is Stress Awareness Month. We are collectively stressed out and spent from the daily stressors we are faced with, at home and abroad. Let’s take a moment to acknowledge all the events that have happened over the past two plus years, and all the events still happening today. We are suffering. Stress is at a record high and there is no clear path toward normalcy. Now more than ever, we are susceptible to mental health issues. Self-care will have to be a priority in our lives if we are to gain some sense of mental stability. Here are a few tips to help with getting grounded and feeling calm within yourself in those moments of heightened stress:

  1. Get enough sleep: Lack of sleep has been linked to multiple adverse health consequences including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and depression. Studies show that sleep disturbances can worsen the symptoms of many mental conditions including bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety.
  2. Take a walk in nature: There is something healing about being in nature. Literature states that spending time in nature has been found to help with mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
  3. Journal or read a good book: Writing down the way you are feeling in moments of overwhelm can be extremely therapeutic. Getting lost in a book might be exactly what you need to escape the stressors of the day.
  4. Listen to music: Music has been proven to elevate your mood and motivation and reduce stress
  5. Pamper yourself, your worth it! Taking time for yourself is paramount to self-care. In fact, choosing self-care activities can actually trigger the production of the body’s “feel-good” hormones- serotonin and oxytocin. These same hormones have been connected to better overall moods and sleep. These hormones are also naturally-occurring pain-relief.

Remember, your self-care comes first! If things start to get too overwhelming and self-care does not seem like it is enough anymore, call us. Ridgeview is here to offer support for you 24/7.