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Pepperdine | Graduate School of Education and Psychology

GSEP Celebrates Mental Health Awareness Month

May 5, 2022  | 3 min read

This month, we are proud to recognize and honor Mental Health Awareness Month and reduce the stigma of mental health. We hope you will be inspired by this reflective message from our professor of Psychology, Dr. Melissa Wasserman, as we raise awareness and support each other through compassion, empathy, and a number of resources available. 

It is important to honor and make space for our mental health since our mental health is an important aspect of overall health and well-being. Mental Health Awareness Month is a time to raise awareness about and reduce the stigma of mental health. Many in our community suffer and oftentimes fear that they are alone in that struggle.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness:

  • In 2020, 21% of U.S. adults experienced mental illness. That is 1 in 5 adults in the United States.
  • Only 46.2% of U.S. adults with mental illness received treatment in 2020.  
  • People with depression are at heightened risk, more specifically 40% higher risk of developing cardiovascular and metabolic diseases than the general population.
  • Not only is depression a leading cause of disability worldwide, but depression and anxiety disorders are estimated to cost the global economy $1 trillion in lost productivity every year.

Now more than ever, there is a need for well-trained mental health professionals who are trained in providing culturally sensitive and evidence-based care.  At GSEP, we are committed to preparing our counselors, therapists, educators, and psychologists who are trauma-informed and who are dedicated to providing meaningful service and leadership to the community.

Mental Health Awareness month represents a time when we can work together toward destigmatizing and normalizing mental health concerns. It’s also a time that we can collectively spread awareness and knowledge about what therapy is and debunk myths about therapy.

Advice & Takeaways:

  • Honor this month by pausing, reflecting, and setting a mental health-related goal for yourself.
  • Practice intentional self mental health check-ins. Perhaps evaluate ways that you currently prioritize your mental health or set a goal about how throughout this month, you can prioritize your mental health more.
  • Sleep dramatically impacts our mental health so pause and reflect on how you may prioritize healthier sleep habits this month.
  • Integrate more mental health or wellness check-ins of others. Perhaps you know a friend, colleague, or community member who may be struggling. Check in on them and see how you may offer support in their time of need. Along with this- educate yourself on the warning signs that someone may be struggling with their mental health.
  • Spread the word about what therapy is (and isn’t). There are a lot of myths about therapy floating around, and we can work together to normalize mental health treatment, destigmatize needing help, and debunking unhelpful myths about therapy. Let’s start with a few!
    • Myth: If I seek therapy, I am weak.
    • Truth: If I seek therapy, I am resourceful.
    • Myth: Therapists just sit and nod in silence.
    • Truth: Therapists actively collaborate with you.
    • Myth: Something has to be dramatically wrong in my life in order for me to seek therapy.
    • Truth: Therapy can be a great tool to utilize in a preventative way, to boost resiliencies and harness skills.
    • Myth: Therapy is passive.
    • Truth: Therapy is a really active process!
    • Myth: Therapy is for people who can’t help themselves.
    • Truth: Therapy is for people who WANT to help themselves.

Dr. Melissa Wasserman headshotDr. Melissa Wasserman is a licensed clinical psychologist and assistant professor.  She co-directs the Jerry Butler Pepperdine Union Rescue Mission Counseling Center, a student training clinic that provides services for Los Angeles' homeless, where she also facilitates group supervision. Dr. Wasserman’s areas of scholarship include war-related trauma, cultural, historical, and intergenerational trauma, post-traumatic growth, and resilience. As part of her scholarly activity, she collaborates with the Brothers At War Resiliency Workshops, a project funded by the Gary Sinise Foundation that delivers a film-assisted resiliency intervention for military personnel and their partners/spouses. She teaches courses on psychological assessment, interpersonal skills and group therapy, and the diagnosis and treatment of mental health disorders in the MA programs. In addition, she teaches doctoral practicum, dissertation intensive, and chairs doctoral dissertations within the PsyD program.

After graduating from University of California, Santa Barbara with a B.A. in Religious Studies, Dr. Wasserman went on to earn her master’s degree in Psychology and Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University.  She completed her predoctoral internship at UCLA Semel Institute and a formal two-year postdoctoral fellowship at UCLA’s Nathanson Family Resilience Center, working primarily with military and veteran families and individuals who have experienced trauma. Dr. Wasserman maintains a private practice where she specializes in post-traumatic stress disorder, sexual trauma, intergenerational trauma, and military/veteran behavioral health. She is trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Cognitive Processing Therapy, Families OverComing Under Stress, and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing and integrates these practices in work with her clients.