I stay in touch with my inner circle regularly. Having them helps me feel less alone. There’s a lot of trust built up between us, so we have hard conversations with each other. Those talks are not always pleasant, but they’re invaluable to my wellbeing.

For my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Erika Martinez. Erika Martinez, is a licensed psychologist in Coral Gables, FL. She specializes in working with young adults, professionals, and entrepreneurs. Combing her expertise in neuropsychology, assessment, trauma, and resilience, Dr. Martinez helps them overcome quarter life crises, relationship meltdowns, and existential dilemmas which can show up as anxiety, destructive behaviors, self-sabotage, depression, loneliness, burn out, poor self-esteem, shame, and impaired social skills.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve always liked to understand the causes behind complicated things, which made me a voracious reader growing up. Eventually, I realized that our psychology was at the root of many of the topics I enjoyed learning about, so I started learning about it, too, and I’ve continued to ever since.

According to Mental Health America’s report, over 44 million Americans have a mental health condition. Yet there’s still a stigma about mental illness. Can you share a few reasons you think this is so?

Mental health is a very intimate and delicate topic. People don’t want to be judged, seen as “crazy”, or pitied. Discussing it requires a lot of vulnerability and society, historically, hasn’t created a safe, empathetic milieu for open conversations about mental health to occur. But I see the tide turning; it’s changing, and it’s incredible to watch and be part of it.

Can you tell our readers about how you are helping to de-stigmatize the focus on mental wellness?

I have over 50 posts on my blog where I try to shed light on a range of topics, from how to pick a therapist to different types of therapy to new concepts like imposter syndrome. The goals are to normalize people’s experiences and educate them so they can make educated decisions about the kind of support they might need. In addition to the blog, I also work with the press, providing my expertise for their articles and stories. Again, the goal to make information available to people, and get them thinking and talking about mental health. The more commonplace discussing mental health becomes, the better our chances of being able to help those that are hurting. More recently, I’ve been exploring Instagram to reach a more diverse audience.

Was there a story behind why you decided to launch this initiative?

When I started my private practice, I found myself giving callers a lot of guidance. Many of the questions they asked were similar. As my practice grew, I couldn’t spend as much time on the phone with people and I didn’t want to leave people as lost as they were when they called me. So, I decided to start blogging as a practical solution to help get my knowledge out there and help to those in need of it. Even if a caller doesn’t become a client, we try to give them information and send them links to helpful posts so they’re a little better off than before they made the call. Making that call to a therapist is difficult and I feel it’s important to recognize and reward that kind of courage.

In your experience, what should a) individuals b) society, and c) the government do to better support people suffering from mental illness?

Mental health is something we all have and we need to start talking about with kids from an early age. Maybe it’s because I’m a former teacher, but I’d love to see a mental health curriculum in schools across all grade levels, just like there’s one for nutrition, sex ed, or physical education.

What are your 6 strategies you use to promote your own wellbeing and mental wellness? Can you please give a story or example for each?

1. I read a lot, and not just psychology-related books. Fiction, chick lit, business books — you name it! The more I understand the human experience, the better able I’ll be to help people.

2. I stay in touch with my inner circle regularly. Having them helps me feel less alone. There’s a lot of trust built up between us, so we have hard conversations with each other. Those talks are not always pleasant, but they’re invaluable to my wellbeing.

3. Mentorship has been important to me, too, both as a mentee and mentor. It reminds me how far I’ve come and far I’ve yet to go, which is grounding and humbling.

4. I attribute my own journey in therapy as a major factor in my personal growth and wellbeing.

5 & 6. Getting older, I’ve noticed the effects of the food that I eat in a way that wasn’t apparent to me when I was younger. The same is true of exercise. My younger self never understood what everyone was raving about. These are aspects of wellness that I’m still working on, and I’m seeing some positive changes in.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a mental health champion?

Books that I’m loving right now include: Running On Empty & Running On Empty No More by Dr. Jonice Webb, which are about childhood emotional neglect and how to recover from it. I find myself re-reading The Big Leap by Guy Hendricks, too. And anything by Dan Siegel and Brené Brown.

Podcasts I love include Women In Depth, Therapy Chat, and Relationship Alive, and the Art of Charm.

Connect with Erika on LinkedIn