Five minutes with Cherlette McCullough, owner and operator, Center Peach Couples and Family Therapy 

Cherlette McCullough is a mental health counselor, author, educator and advocate who is passionate about destigmatizing mental health counseling and helping individuals and couples recognize the importance of taking care of themselves both emotionally and mentally. She is the author of two 30-Day Affirmation journals for both individuals and couples as well as a break-up and divorce self-help guide, “W.I.N.K. What I Need to Know: After the Breakup,” which is her best seller. Cherlette is the owner and operator of Center Peace Couples and Family Therapy, a strength-based clinical mental health practice located in Winter Park.

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What inspired you to go into the mental health field?

My 18-year career background is in the child welfare field with DJJ and DCF. During my time in the child welfare field, I noticed that majority of the families that I worked with had a family history of substance abuse, physical abuse and mental illness. The resources that were given to the families only alleviated the surface or immediate needs. I became curious as to how could we help the families from re-entering the system and give them help that could possibly get to the root of the issue that caused them to have a Dependency case. After hired as a case manager then promoted to a program director, I enrolled at Webster University in the master’s program for mental health counseling, marriage and family track. My goal was to continue in the field of child welfare however from a mental health clinical perspective.

In addition to your practice, what local initiatives are you involved in?

I was recently appointed to the board of directors of the Mental Health Association of Central Florida. MHACF launched the initiative “You Are A Lifeguard” which focuses on bringing the community together to take an active role to recognize the signs and ultimately help prevent teen and adult suicides. I enjoy serving on this board as this is an organization that aligns with my passion of making intentional efforts toward mental health awareness and providing mental health services for Central Florida. MHACF’s Outlook Clinic, provides mental health services including psychiatric services for the uninsured and the Mental Health Connections program is a free mental health information and referral resource for the community.

Why is it so important to address mental health concerns, especially in the workplace?

Mental health includes emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Mental wellness determines how we show up for ourselves, our families, and our employers. The belief that just because you don’t have a mental illness means that you are mentally healthy is not true. You may not have a mental health diagnosis however you may not be mentally healthy.

What should leaders/managers be aware of?

Unchecked mental health concerns can lead to mental illness. Mental health concerns like intense anger, uncontrollable crying, change in eating habits, lack of sleep, disconnection from your spouse, grief are all signs that your mental health needs attention. When employees can talk about their mental health in the workplace, they feel supported and understood which can improve productivity and job performance.

What’s the best way to give ourselves a mental break?

The best way to give ourselves a mental break is to actually take a break. Taking a break looks different for everyone. Here are a few things to do to take a break: connect with nature (hiking, walking), allow yourself to have a day where you are not responsible for anything, disconnect from the news (TV or electronically), or take a few hours to do an enjoyable hobby. It’s ok to do whatever you need to do to calm your internal self so that you can return to your normal duties with focus and motivation to get things completed.