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Meet Dr. Sheila D Williams | Mental Health Advocate, Best-Selling Author, International Speaker and Media Personality

Today we’re excited to introduce you to Dr. Sheila D Williams. Dr. Williams is a Mental Health Advocate, Best-Selling Author, International Speaker, Media Personality and is also a content partner. Content partners help Voyage in so many ways from spreading the word about the work that we do, sponsoring our mission and collaborating with us on content like this. Check out our conversation with Dr. Williams below.

Hi Dr. Williams, so great to have you join us again. For folks who might have missed our earlier conversations, can you please take a minute to briefly introduce yourself?
I am Dr. Sheila D. Williams. I hold a Master’s Degree in Counseling and a Ph.D. in Leadership and Education. I am an Advocate for Mental Health Awareness and Reform. It is my goal to bring mental health resources, services and education to all communities, particularly those who reside in underserved and underrepresented communities.

As a Change Agent, it is also my goal to end the stigma associated with Mental Illness. Being raised in an African-American Christian home, we simply did not discuss mental health and whatever happened in our home and in our family ‘stayed’ in our home. This same ‘tradition’ is very familiar in most families of color. After experiencing the stigma of my Mother’s mental illness and how that stigma caused dysfunction in our family, I decided to break my silence and write the memoir ‘My Mother’s Keeper’, which has become a best-seller. When we chose to acknowledge there’s a problem, address that problem and appropriately heal, we not only heal ourselves, but we begin to heal generations of hurt, resolve conflict, and successfully build families and communities that can thrive.

As a media personality, I do radio and tv interviews to spread awareness. I am a John Maxwell International Speaker, where I speak candidly and transparently about Mental Health, Education and all topics that address our society. I provide awareness, conduct trainings, workshops, and seminars and serve as keynote speaker, panelist and provide commencement speeches for high schools, colleges and universities.

As a Mental Health Advocate, you wrote a very transparent memoir “My Mother’s Keeper” about your mother’s mental illness and how it affected the entire family unit. How has your life and career changed since writing this memoir?
After writing and publishing ‘My Mother’s Keeper’, I can truly say that my life has changed tremendously and all of it has been positive. It was never my intention to become a ‘best-selling’ author, I simply listened to what God had been telling me to do for so many years and that was to break the silence and to give my Mother a voice by telling her story, so that is what I did.

Because there are so many who can relate to the things I shared in the memoir, family dysfunction, family secrets, divorce, depression or any form of mental illness, the stress and strain of life, and even caring for a parent or loved one, it made the book relatable on so many levels. As a Christian woman, I wanted people to experience my Mother’s overwhelming sense of insecurity, the insecurity of ‘not fitting in’ in a place that was supposed to be a safe haven, the church. This is a topic that many chose not to address. I firmly believe that if we fail to address those issues that face us, they will never truly be resolved. We continue to perpetuate generational curses and dysfunction in our families, in our churches and in our communities.

‘My Mother’s Keeper’ becoming a best-seller, has afforded me the opportunity meet so many amazing people, to hear their stories, and to bring mental health resources and awareness to communities all over the world. Serving on this platform, is where God has positioned and purposed me to be. By utilizing my own personal experiences with mental illness, my advanced education in mental health and my extensive background and training in this field, it’s the trifecta of exactly what is needed to create change in an area where change is so desperately needed, and for that I am so grateful.

Writing ‘My Mother’s Keeper’ has not only allowed me to tell my Mother’s story, but it has allowed me to be ‘The Voice’ for so many others who feel or have felt they don’t have a voice. What has been most rewarding, is that writing this book has healed and mended several broken relationships within my own family. Being transparent allows us the opportunity to not only heal ourselves, but it allows those we care for and love the opportunity to heal as well.

As a Mental Health Advocate, you also serve as an Internationally Certified Speaker. What are some of the topics you speak on and what are some of your upcoming speaking engagements?
As a John Maxwell Certified International Speaker, Trainer and Coach I serve as a Keynote Speaker, where I deliver the keynote address on topics related to: Mental Health, Awareness and Reform, Education, Trauma, and any topic that affects underserved and underrepresented communities.

As a Speaker, I also serve as a Panelist, Trainer and Coach addressing any of the above topics, but in addition, topics such as Policing of the Mentally Ill, Special Education, Mental and Behavioral Health of Children, Women’s Mental Health, Mental Illness in the Church, Racial and Social Injustice/Inequalities, and Mental Health disparities in the African-American communities and communities of color.

Lastly, but definitely not least, I serve as a Commencement Speaker and deliver the keynote address for high school, college and university graduations. Because I hold Education with such a high regard, have served in the Education field for over 20 years and hold a PhD in Leadership and Education, it is one of the most rewarding experiences to share encouraging words for our future leaders.

Most recently, I had the opportunity to share insight on COVID-19 and the Effects of Stress, Trauma and the ‘New Normal’ on our Overall Mental Health with NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). I have been a frequent guest on ‘The Isiah Factor’ which airs on Fox 26 Houston. I have had the privilege to partner with several agencies, to bring Mental Health awareness and promote a positive shift in the way we think about and address mental illness.

In addition to several upcoming media appearances, trainings and workshops, I am excited to announce that I will be the keynote speaker for the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) 3rd Annual Restoring Hope Training Summit that will be held October 26-27, 2021 in Orlando, Florida where I will speak to an audience of over 400 community, local, state and government officials on the importance of “Promoting Mental and Behavioral Health Awareness.”

It is not only an honor and a privilege, but I feel it is my purpose and my duty to serve and I welcome the opportunity.

You’ve been serving in the Mental Health field for over 20 years now. If you had the opportunity to collaborate on a specific project, or for a specific cause related to mental health reform, what would that be?
I’ve had a very rewarding career in the Mental Health (and Education) fields. If I had the opportunity to collaborate with anyone it would be to continue to collaborate with NAMI, National Alliance and with DJJ (Department of Juvenile Justice). I would as well like to partner with organizations such as DCF (Department of Children and Families), Department of Corrections, the ACLU, Department of Health, NAACP, National Urban League, Congressional Black Caucus, MHA, Mental Health America, just to name a few.

I would as well be honored to partner with some of public school districts, colleges and universities to conduct seminars, workshops, health fairs and panel discussions related to mental health, locally, domestically and internationally. No school, no college is too big or too small, as mental health is something that affects us all.

I would as well love to partner with church and religious organizations to bring Mental Health awareness, resources and information to all of the members. It is imperative that we address mental illness in the church, we can no longer afford to ignore it or pretend that it doesn’t exist. I’m interested in conducting seminars, workshops, conferences, and panel discussions that address this very topic – in the church! Let’s address the stigma and work to remove it, together.

Lastly, I’d absolutely love collaborate with Taraji P. Henson and the Boris L. Henson Mental Health Foundation and Beyonce’s BeyGOOD Foundation – someone connect us please!

There are so many things I am working on, and I continue to find opportunities to continue the work because there is always work to be done. We’ve come a long way, as it pertains to mental health awareness and reform, but we have quite a way to go. I’m up for the challenge.

Your memoir, ‘My Mother’s Keeper’, has been a best seller for many years now. What do you believe has contributed to the success of your first book and can we expect another book from you in the near future?
‘My Mother’s Keeper’ became a best seller because I firmly believe the message is one that is relatable. The book is raw, it’s real and it’s non-fictional. This is the story of my life, my mother’s life. My readers tell me that they could feel my pain, my joy, and even the dysfunction is something that many have indicated is very relatable.

I’ve found that transparency is what people appreciate. We are often bombarded with pictures, videos and even events that are not ‘real’. When I wrote ‘My Mother’s Keeper’, I was still healing from trauma, from family dysfunction and I was still mourning and grieving the loss of my mother. All of this can be felt in this memoir. People want to read something they can relate to. Of course, we all love to be entertained, but we also want to heal and I think that is what ‘My Mother’s Keeper’ does for so many people. Perhaps it’s not for everyone, but for the majority of those that have read it, I have received overwhelmingly positive feedback.

If you’re looking for a small book, but a book that is full of hope, of transparency, of love and of genuineness then ‘My Mother’s Keeper’ is a book I’d encourage you to read.

I’ve actually started several books since I wrote ‘My Mother’s Keeper’, but one thing or another has caused me to not publish at that time. It’s all about timing. I will say that ‘My Mother’s Keeper’ is still thriving, so even when I publish the 2nd book, continue to expect great things from “My Mother’s Keeper’.

In the African-American community there remains a huge stigma associated with Mental Illness. In your experience, what do you believe to be the reason this sfigma remains?
The stigma associated with Mental Illness has always been in the African-American community. We have been systematically conditioned and taught to suppress our emotions. We have been led to believe that an expression of our emotions or that we need help is a sign of weakness. This was instilled in us when we were enslaved, and stripped of our independence, our voices and our freedom. As a means to control a person, you must first control them mentally. Enslaving an individual mentally, making them feel inferior, taking their customs, raping their women, beating and hanging their husbands, and selling their children were all tactics of fear and mental torture to instill a mentality of suppression, physical, mental, emotional and even spiritual.

From generation to generation. these ‘traditions’ of remaining silent and just being ‘strong’ has been instilled in our culture, in our children. We are strong, but with strength comes the courage and the wisdom to change what isn’t working. Suppressing our mental and emotional struggles, does not alleviate or fix the problem, we now know this. So now that we are aware of this, it’s time that we create and promote healing in ourselves and in our communities. It’s time to break generational curses or generational dysfunction and educate ourselves, our families, our communities on the importance of mental health, where to get treatment and how to maintain a healthy lifestyle in all aspects of our lives.

What are some of the biggest misconceptions about Mental Health treatment and therapy? And how can we as a collective society help to end these misconceptions?
Some of the misconceptions about Mental Health treatment and therapy are the following:

1. Therapy or Counseling is expensive
2. There is no help in my community
3. They will put me on medication
4. My employer will find out I have a mental illness
5. I’ll never be ‘normal’ if I’m diagnosed with a mental illness

In order to end these misconceptions, we have to continue to discuss Mental Health. We must bring awareness to schools, churches, businesses, for profit and nonprofit organizations. We must discuss it on the radio, on tv shows, in blogs on social media and it must be accurate information. We must also bring resources to underserved communities.

Thank you so much again for sharing all of this with us. Before we go, can you share with our readers how they can connect with you, learn more or show support?
My website is www.DrSheilaDWilliams.com

I can also be found on all social media platforms, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn all under my full name Dr. Sheila D. Williams

My book, ‘My Mother’s Keeper’, is available directly from my website, or you can locate it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Walmart.com, Books A Million and anywhere books are sold.

Contact Info:

  • Website: www.DrSheilaDWilliams.com
  • Facebook: @DoctorSheila
  • Linkedin: Dr. Sheila D Williams
  • Twitter: @DrSDWilliams
  • Youtube: Dr. Sheila D. Williams
  • Other: My book, ‘My Mother’s Keeper’, is available directly from my website, or you can locate it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Walmart.com, Books A Million and anywhere books are sold.

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