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May brings reminder to prioritize our mental health

Updated May 3, 2024 - 2:57 pm

As May again brings us to Mental Health Awareness Month, we must continue to prioritize our mental well-being. That might include listening to podcasts centered on mental health, joining a support group, seeing a therapist, getting involved with local mental health organizations or purchasing self-help books.

I want to highlight someone who is a rock star in the Southern Nevada mental health community. I could not think of a better person than my longtime colleague Dr. Roberta Miranda-Alfonzo, a professor, therapist, researcher, clinical supervisor, mentor and advocate.

Our interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Dr. Sheldon A. Jacobs: Please tell us about yourself.

Dr. Roberta Miranda-Alfonzo: I moved to Las Vegas from California when I was 14 years old. In high school, I started experiencing mental health conditions, more specifically an eating disorder, as well as depression, which is often a co-occurring diagnosis for many people with eating disorders. My mother had a tough time finding treatment for me in Las Vegas, so I ended up receiving treatment in California. This was 36 years ago. Unfortunately, our state still lacks resources. Because of my struggles, I had to drop out of high school, but with therapy and some additional support, I was able to slowly get back on track and eventually earn a doctorate degree in counseling.

Through my journey, I worked as an addiction and mental health counselor, as well as being able to provide clinical supervision and instruction at four universities. Most recently, I have been asked to join the team of BeHERE NV, an amazing initiative with the goal of building and sustaining the behavioral health workforce in our state.

Tell us about your current work in the community.

I have been in the field now for 20 years. One of the things I am most passionate about is serving as a mentor to the next generation of counselors. I enjoy bringing my own personal and professional experience to the table. Most of my students are undergraduates, and many of them are still trying to figure out what facet to pursue. So, I like to introduce different areas because we have such a wide range they can choose from beyond the counselor track.

My next project is using my skills and expertise to build the mental and behavioral health workforce. Unfortunately, Nevada ranks close to last when it comes to access to mental health services. I identify as Mexican American, and in our community, there is a need for more mental health providers from diverse backgrounds, especially clinicians of color. Research indicates that individuals who seek therapy tend to feel more comfortable working with a mental health provider that identifies similarly to their cultural background.

I am also working to retain the current providers. Because of the potential for high burnout, I am working with pre-licensed and licensed clinicians to see what we can do as a collective to support one another. There are opportunities for us as providers to support each other in the field such as creating healing circles. And to also support our clinical supervisors. I feel like there are endless opportunities for us to connect.

What has your experience as a program developer been like?

Serving as a program developer for Hope Medical Center has been exciting. Hope Medical Center is in the southeast area of town and offers in-person and virtual outpatient addiction, mental health and problem-gambling services — and is proud to offer Spanish-speaking providers. What is exciting is that we secured a grant from the state of Nevada to provide free problem-gambling services to individuals and their loved ones.

For additional information, call 702-425-8511 and visit hopemedicalcenter.org or beherenv.org.

Dr. Sheldon A. Jacobs, Psy.D., LMFT, is a licensed mental health professional based in Las Vegas. Contact him at drjacobs10@hotmail.com. Follow @drjacobs33 on X and Instagram.

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