Breaking the Stigma: Why Mental Health Month Matters

May is recognized as Mental Health Month and it's a time to raise awareness about mental health, break down stigma, and promote mental wellness!





In 1949 Mental Health America (formerly National Association of Mental Health) started National Awareness Month in May to raise awareness, educate the public, and reduce the stigma of having mental illness. It is estimated that 1 in 5 Americans will suffer a mental illness in a given year.

1. Why is mental health important?

Mental and physical health are equally important for individuals to maximize their life goals, enhance personal relations, cope with stress, and effectively contribute to their community. Research has repeatedly shown that mental health illness can affect someone’s medical condition and conversely someone’s medical condition can affect mental health illness.

2. What’s the difference between experiencing anxiety or depression, and suffering from a mental illness?

Mental health is more than just the presence or absence of a pathological condition. Anxiety, depression, other mood issues, and psychosocial disabilities are on a continuum of intensities. When those mental health issues reach a level that emotionally distresses the individual and/or begins to negatively impact their personal and social functioning it is considered to be a pathological condition of mental illness.

3. What are symptoms which can be signs of mental illness?

If you or your loved ones notice changes in your ability to effectively deal with everyday stressors, notice changes in your ability to care for yourself, notice changes in eating and sleeping patterns, have poor motivation levels, find that you are not able to regulate your emotions, if you are isolating yourself from others, have thoughts of hurting yourself or others it is time to talk with your healthcare provider for a mental health assessment.  

4. How is a mental illness diagnosed?

A mental illness is diagnosed after appropriate medical and/or psychological tests are performed along with an interview about an individual’s symptoms and family history.

5. What are some support and treatment options for those who have a mental illness?

It is best to talk with your healthcare provider as a first step in diagnosing and treating mental illness. Treatments may include counseling, medications, and/or other social interventions. There are national organizations that may also be referenced such as the American Psychiatric Association (AMA,, the American Psychological Association (APA,, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI,, 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (, and Mental Health America (

Living with mental health challenges can be difficult, but you don't have to face it alone. Our psychologists provide a safe and supportive environment to help you overcome your struggles. To make an appointment with a SIMEDHealth Psychologist, click here.








Minority Mental Health with Markus Dietrich, LMHC

July is observed as National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, and we discussed these struggles with SIMEDHealth Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Markus Dietrich.


“Approximately 18% of US adults have a mental health diagnosis in any given year, 4% of the affected people have a severe mental illness.” [1] Mental illness does not discriminate by race or gender, even though prevalence of certain diagnoses varies.

Racial and ethnic minority communities face unique struggles regarding mental health problems.



1. What are the challenges racial and ethnic minority communities face regarding mental health illnesses?

Mental health problems still carry a stigma for some. There is a higher stigma regarding mental health in some racial and ethnic groups, making it harder to recognize and identify mental health illnesses. Even when problems are identified, minority communities can be disproportionally affected by certain barriers. Among those are uninsured or under insured accessing services provided in medical settings, capacity issues, waiting lists in publicly funded agencies and a general distrust in healthcare systems. On the provider side a significant issue is a lack of diversity, with 81% of providers being Caucasian. This lack of diversity can manifest in lack of cultural competence and language barriers, making it potentially more difficult for some to find providers they can relate to.   


2. Why do some people resist getting help for mental health illnesses?

Mental health issues are still less understood and for some carry a stigma compared to physical illness. Thanks in part to the media, famous entertainers, and influencers have been forthcoming with their own mental health and substance abuse problems; drawing attention to the importance of mental health.  Mental illness is not always evident, making it difficult for people to recognize it. When a person is ready for help, it is important that access to treatment is easy and timely.


3. What can one do to help someone struggling with mental health?

Be a friend, listen with the intent to understand, and avoid being judgmental. Showing judgment while someone is expressing their emotions can prevent them in the future from confiding in you. Showing someone support can be simply being a good listener, validating their emotions and letting them know they’re not alone, or helping them find resources and solutions.  


4. What are things one can do to boost their mental health?

Even though one might not experience a mental illness like depression or an anxiety disorder, most of us can improve our mental health. Ways to boost your mental health include good self- care, getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, limiting alcohol consumption, and seeking and maintaining healthy relationships.


5. Any additional comments?

Taking care of your health includes physical and mental health. If you’re struggling and need help, reach out to appropriate specialists. Thanks to the wide variety of treatment options available today, most mental illnesses are treatable.



[1] Mental Health Disparities: Diverse Populations, American Psychiatric Association, 2017

Depression: Tips to Help Friends and Family

Many people have dealt with depression or know someone who has struggled with it. This can make everyday tasks difficult to perform and take the fun out of hobbies and passions. Sometimes people may not know what to do, if they should seek help, or if they even have depression. We spoke with SIMED Health Psychologist Dr. Kristy Quackenbush-Orr. She shared tips on how to help friends and family. She also provided information on when you should see a doctor and what symptoms people with depression usually present. 

It's important to know there are different severity levels of depression. You may not cry daily, have suicidal thoughts, or sleep all the time, but you can still experience depression. It can be more subtle, like feeling fatigued, having difficulty sleeping, not engaging in activities you used to enjoy, or not feeling motivated. 

Symptoms include:

1. Feelings of sadness

2. Feelings of hopelessness

3. Feelings of helplessness

4. Anhedonia (Inability to experience pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable like hobbies) 

5. Difficulty sleeping

6. A change in appetite

7. Fatigue

8. Thoughts of suicide

9. Poor concentration

10. Poor motivation

When should you see a doctor? If you notice any changes in mood or behavior for two weeks, complete a depression screening. You can get a screening through a SIMED Health Psychologist or SIMED Psychiatrist.

Why should you get a depression screening? You can do a depression screening to find out if you have the disorder and the level of severity you experience. Screenings can be completed online or in paper-pencil format; a medical provider can also verbally ask questions. Once a screening is completed, a score is calculated which should indicate whether someone is experiencing a level of depression that requires further assistance. You should get a screening if you have been tearful, experiencing loss of interest in activities, feeling helpless, having thoughts of ending your life, feeling hopeless, or feeling lonely.


Here are additional tips you can suggest to those struggling with depression.

1. Exercise – You should exercise at least 30 minutes every day as approved by your physician. Exercise has been shown to improve mood and reduce anxiety.

2. Eat Healthy – Research recommends a Mediterranean diet and eating few sugary, processed foods.

3. Use Positive Coping Skills Daily – Coping skills help with handling stress in an effective manner. Coping skills include: journaling, deep breathing exercises, meditation, drawing, working out, gardening, going to church, spending time with friends, and engaging in a hobby.

4. Use Your Resources - Many resources are available to people with depression, and you are not alone. You can find resources online or in your local community.

5. Attend a support group – You can find support groups in most cities including Gainesville and Ocala.

6. See a therapist – You should see either a psychologist or a licensed mental health counselor to be evaluated to determine if medication is recommended. Psychotherapy or "talk therapy" can teach individuals how to change their automatic thoughts or their negative thought patterns. In psychotherapy, patients will also learn how to use cognitive reframes to change the way they think about situations. Therapy also addresses ways to incorporate positive coping skills daily into life. SIMED Health Psychologists offer psychotherapy.

7. Increase your social support – Spend more time with friends and reach out to friends for support and to help you cope. 


If you know someone experiencing anxiety or depression, let them know that you are here to support them through this time as you listen to their concerns and fears.

Click here to request an appointment online with a SIMED Psychologist and learn more about treatment options. 

If you or someone you know have thoughts of suicide, we encourage you to contact the suicide hotline ( at 1-800-273-8255. Confidential help is available for free 24/7.

5 Ways to Feel Less Stressed

According to the American Institute of Stress (AIS), 73% of the population regularly experiences psychological symptoms due to stress. April is Stress Awareness Month, which allows us to reflect on how we can prepare for the stress of finding the right summer child care, finishing the school year or semester or even planning family vacations.

Dr. Danielle Jahn, of SIMEDHealth Psychology, said picking up on the signs of stress is essential because any type of unmanaged stress can lead to anxiety, depression, and even physical symptoms.

"Stress can exacerbate a wide variety of conditions, like ADHD, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and cognitive issues. All sorts of mental health diagnoses can certainly be worsened or exacerbated by stress," Dr. Jahn said. 

According to Dr. Jahn, stress activates the sympathetic nervous system. This is the part of our nervous system that reacts during the fight or flight response. Because our brain perceives stress as a threat, that’s when our heart rate increases, blood flow changes, and our breathing becomes faster and shallow.

Over time, chronic stress can cause physical symptoms such as having a hard time sleeping, inflammation in the body, a weakened immune system, worsened pain from preexisting medical conditions, and flare-ups of autoimmune disorders.

To help reduce your feelings of stress and avoid physical complications, here are five techniques that Dr. Jahn recommends.

Deep Breathing:

Deep breathing tells your brain to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the part of our nervous system that slows everything back down until you’re calm again. It puts the brakes on the stress response that the sympathetic nervous system has started.

Dr. Jahn recommends practicing deep breathing as a skill at least a couple minutes per day to help de-stress.

Muscle Relaxation:

This technique is used to identify where we carry tension from stress in our bodies, and to help release that tension. Dr. Jahn recommends starting from your head and working your way down.

Tense and hold a specific muscle group for 5-10 seconds and then completely relax those muscles. Work through your whole body doing that as a way to identify where your stress is and let it go.


Being mindful means slowing down and being present in the moment, Dr. Jahn said. The example she likes to use is that you can either mindfully brush your teeth or unmindfully brush your teeth. If you are brushing your teeth and thinking about everything you didn’t get done yesterday or everything that you need to do later, you’re not being present.

“If you stop and focus in on that moment of brushing your teeth, you’re helping your mind be present,” she said. “Being present and not allowing your thoughts to race or wander helps reduce feelings of stress.”


Acceptance means understanding that things are going to go wrong, she said.

“This summer you may plan the perfect vacation and it ends up raining the whole time or one of the kids gets sick. So practicing acceptance is the idea that we can’t control everything.” Dr. Jahn said.

We can either choose to dwell on those negative things, which will cause us more stress, or we can choose to accept that they’ve happened and turn our attention to other more positive things. This technique can help us reduce our feelings of stress even though those negative things have happened.

Living by your values:

“Living consistently with your values just means knowing what’s really important to you and doing things that are consistent with that,” Dr. Jahn said.

The example she used is: Let’s say your most important value is your family. Ask yourself if you really need to take on all the extra tasks your boss asks of you, or if you need to bake for the event at your kids’ school since those tasks will probably mean less quality time with your family. Saying yes to all those requests is just going to create additional stress in your life and not make you feel more fulfilled.

Dr. Jahn’s final words of wisdom for Stress Awareness Month are:

"There are a lot of great things we can do on our own to help manage stress. But if at any point you're feeling like its overwhelming and you aren't managing it well on your own, then it's probably time to consult somebody. You can talk always to your primary care provider or you can come see us in psychology."


Click here to learn more about Dr. Jahn, or request an appointment in a SIMEDHealth Psychology department closest to you.

SIMED Welcomes Dr. Danielle Jahn

SIMED is excited to announce Dr. Danielle Jahn Ph.D. is joining SIMED Health Psychology. Dr. Jahn earned her Ph.D. in Psychology from Texas Tech University and is a licensed psychologist in the state of Florida. She completed her clinical internship at the VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System and she later completed her fellowship in serious mental illness at VA VISN 5 Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Center. 

"SIMED has a positive reputation in the community," says Dr. Jahn. She is excited to work in an integrated healthcare system and serve the North Central Florida community.

Dr. Jahn's specialty throughout her years of practice has been suicidology and geropsychology. She is available for individual therapy, adult ADHD assessments, and cognitive assessments in our Gainesville and Chiefland offices.

To schedule your appointment with Dr. Jahn, call us our Gainesville office at (352) 332-9441, our Chiefland at (352) 332-9551 or request an appointment online at 

SIMED Psychologist Wins Distinguished Award

SIMED health Psychologist Cathleen Civiello won the 2018 Distinguished Psychologist in Management Award from the Society of Psychologists in Management

SIMED is pleased to announce that Cathleen Civiello PhD, the most recent addition to the SIMED Health Psychology team has won the 2018 Distinguished Psychologist in Management (DPIM) Award presented by the Society of Psychologists in Management (SPIM).

The Distinguished Psychologist in Management Award “recognizes outstanding contributions to the practice of management by a psychologist.” Awarded annually, its highly selective nomination process results in an honoree who has developed practices that “have a major impact on people in organizational settings and/or on the professions of management.”

Dr. Civiello was recognized for her work using clinical psychology to affect a cultural change in intelligence agencies. Previously, she won the “Mentor of the Year” Award from an organization with more than 60,000 employees. She also received an award from President Barack Obama for her work.

Dr. Civiello once served as president of SPIM. In her first SPIM meeting, she sat next to Dr. Harry Levinson who was the first DPIM recipient in 1985. Many consider Dr. Levinson to be the father of managerial psychology and the application of psychology in organizations.

“It was humbling to have been nominated for and even more so to have been selected for this same DPIM award,” Dr. Civiello said. “Although the psychologist who nominated me for the DPIM award primarily used my work in the past 30 years, he also commented on my transition to SIMED.”

“From the time I began interviewing for a position in SIMED, I was attracted to the organization because SIMED leaders and clinical staff, in our integrated care model, apply good management in a way that enhances patient care and patient health.”

As the recipient of this year’s award, Dr. Civiello will present a lecture at SPIM’s annual convention in February about her work at SIMED and how leadership and management science informs clinical work.

“Dr. Civiello winning the Distinguished Psychologist in Management Award is well earned,” said Dr. Daniel Duncanson, SIMED CEO. “She has dedicated her career to helping others through difficult times and her commitment to the field of Psychology and to serving our veterans should be applauded by all.”

“Her personality, background and professional skills make her a wonderful addition to the SIMED team.  We are thrilled she chose to relocate to North Central Florida for this next phase of her career.”

To learn more about Dr. Civiello or schedule your appointment with our SIMED Health Psychology team, visit us here. You can also call (352) 331-9441 for our Gainesville and Chiefland locations or (352) 732-3110 for our Ocala and Lady Lake locations.

Tips to Reduce Stress During the Holidays

Wrapped gifts and presents with text about how people spend so much money on gifts for the holidays

The holiday seasons can be full of stress. We talked with SIMED Healthy Psychologist Dr. Kristy Quackenbush about why the holidays cause so much anxiety and what you can do to reduce that stress.

Why are the holidays stressful?

We tend to experience more stress during the holiday season for many reasons!

First, people put pressure on themselves to buy the “perfect” gift for loved ones. Gift buying often leads to people feeling overwhelmed about spending money (that they often do not have). According to the American Research Group, the average American is planning on spending $983 on Christmas presents, which is more than the average American makes in a week!

The holidays can also be stressful when gathering family members under one roof. Past negative interactions, past psychological injuries, different life views (I.e. Political views), judgmental/rude comments (“Did you gain weight?” “Are you still single?!”), and unsolicited advice given from fellow family members can be overwhelming and anxiety inducing.

Tip about stress during the holidays with two people laughing and smilingFurthermore, setting unrealistic expectations for the holidays also increases holiday stress.

Another stressor is food! The American culture centers many holidays around the food. For some, cooking is overwhelming. Some people have food allergies. Some people have health complications that can be affected by food. Some people worry about their weight. The holidays are a time when many are tempted to overeat or eat food that will negatively affect their health.

Last but not least, people tend to travel for the holidays, and whether you’re traveling via car, plane, or train, traveling can be stressful.

What are some indicators that I might be stressed about the holidays?

Symptoms of stress include:

1. Poor sleep
2. Change in appetite
3. New physical complaints (such as headaches, tightness in the neck, stomach aches, shortness of breath, nausea, diarrhea)
4. Being more forgetful
5. Being more irritable
6. Crying
7. Yelling/arguing

Our body is always providing us with information, and often we are “too busy” to listen. Pay attention to your physical symptoms/cues and take stock of the basic life necessities (I.e. “Have I been sleeping well?”, “Did I eat and drink enough water today?”).

tip about stress during the holiday with woman taking a photographI’ve figured out I’m stressed. What can I do to feel better?

These tips will help you feel better in no time.

1. Get around 8 hours of sleep.
Avoid electronics (I.e. cellphones, televisions, IPads, etc.) at least 30 minutes before bed.
Avoid caffeine in the evening.

2. Eat well.
Avoid eating just one large meal.
Eat vegetables and fruits.
Limit alcohol intake.
Limit sugar.
Drink water.
When we are not sleeping or eating well, our physical health, mood, and memory can be negatively impacted.

3. Exercise.
Exercise is beneficial for our physical health, decreasing stress, improving mood, and improving memory.
A 30-minute walk outside in a local park can assist with decreasing stress.
Consider listening to your favorite music while walking or working out.

4. Continue to engage in hobbies/activities you enjoy.
This will give you a break from the stressors of the day.

5. Engage in a mindfulness activities.Tip about stress during the holidays with medicine container
For example, while eating your favorite food or spending time outside, stop and ask yourself: What do I see? What do I feel? What do I hear? What do I taste? What do I smell? Take time engaging in all your senses. Stop and smell the roses!

6. Continue to take your medications as prescribed!
People have a tendency to forget to take their medications due to changes in daily routine (I.e. traveling) or the excitement of the holiday.

If none of these tips are helpful, contact a mental health provider such as a psychologist, mental health counselor, or psychiatrist.

Remember to also focus on the positives!

1. Use cognitive reframes (I.e. Yes, I have a flat tire, but at least, I have a vehicle or did not get injured!).
2. Take time to enjoy the holiday by learning about loved ones (I.e. ask questions: What was your favorite toy as a child? If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be?)
3. Remember that a more expensive gift does not mean you love someone more. Spending time with a person is an invaluable gift.
4. Consider looking into a local church or finding an Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meeting if you are traveling out of the area.

Tip about stress during the holidays with woman at churchStress not only has short-term repercussions (I.e. muscle tension, diarrhea, poor sleep, low libido, depression, anxiety, etc.), but it can also lead to ulcers, high blood pressure, heart disease, memory impairment, and more. Managing stress is important, even during the holidays, when you feel like you need to prioritize so much else.

Dr. Quackenbush sees patients in Ocala and Lady Lake who are coping with a physical illness. To schedule an appointment with her or another health psychologist in Ocala or Lady Lake, call (352) 732-3110. You can also schedule an appointment online.

SIMED Health Psychologists are also available in Gainesville and Chiefland at (352) 332-9441 or via an appointment request online, and SIMED Psychiatry is offered in Lady Lake/The Villages at (352) 753-6887 or online.

Happy Holidays!

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