Reaching Out: Asking for Help Changed Charlotte Woman’s Outlook on Life

Essie McMillan stands with her hands on her hips and a huge smile on her face dressed in a light color blouse, black pants and sandals.

Essie McMillan is supported through Monarch’s Mecklenburg Behavioral Health Outpatient clinic in Charlotte.

Essie McMillan realized her mental health struggles were becoming too difficult to handle on her own. Her mother and adult children noticed erratic behavior that most likely signaled she needed help.

McMillan took to heart her family’s concerns and listened to what they were witnessing and sharing with her. Looking back, she is proud of herself and the courage she summoned to reach out for help. She was connected with and now receives mental health services through Monarch’s Behavioral Health Outpatient clinic in Charlotte.

She feels strongly about others knowing that help is a phone call away and available for anyone with the desire to choose healing and take control of their mental health. “There is hope for you and you can begin your road to recovery,” she says confidently to others who are unsure that healing is an option.

Her mental health journey began while she was experiencing stress working full-time and living alone in Hope Mills, North Carolina. The symptoms of untreated mental health issues interfered with her relationships, parenting, employment and other areas of her life.

In 2020 and prompted by concerns expressed by her mother, McMillan moved from Hope Mills to the Charlotte area to live with her children. After arriving, she reached out to the North Carolina Department of Social Services which referred her to Monarch were she received an initial clinical assessment. Following the assessment, she began treatment for mental health diagnoses that included schizoaffective and bipolar disorder, as well as anxiety.

“The stress that I was under was severe and that is what triggered the schizophrenia,” McMillan recalls, explaining the immense pressures she felt as a sales representative for a popular computer product.

After being assessed and meeting with a Monarch provider, McMillan, 50, was paired with Behavioral Therapist Gayle Van Horn, CPSS, LISW, LCSW. McMillan is now part of the “Overcoming” group therapy and meets with Van Horn for individual therapy.

Van Horn shares that McMillan began to open up during their therapy sessions, both individual and group, and that the group therapy members appreciate and learn from her insight and wisdom: “She is a very good listener and perceptive. She is able to share stressors and what is causing her difficulty.”

“Being in Monarch outpatient services was an open door and an opportunity for Essie to begin her healing journey. More importantly, she is the most vital key to her recovery,” offers Van Horn. “Essie has utilized her learning and resources to improve the quality of her mental, emotional and overall well-being.”

The pair worked on identifying triggers that can indicate a mental health crisis may begin, recognizing the thought process, what is real and not real, and identifying when cognitive distortions are happening. “The difference is now I know when it first starts. I can recognize it on point. In the past, I didn’t because I didn’t know what to do,” McMillan says about the life-changing coping skills she has learned.

McMillan’s healing process has prompted a new-found confidence, courage and positive outlook on life. What would she share with others who might be hesitant to reach out for help or fear the stigma often associated with mental illness?

“There is hope. You have a purpose in life and your healing experience can help someone else. I have struggles and mental health issues, and I am overcoming them. If you acknowledge your mental health issue – and you have to be honest with yourself and accept the diagnosis – it is something you have to live with but not struggle alone. Life is much easier when you have people who want to see you live a healthier life. Take advantage of the help that is offered to you. You are worth the work,” she states passionately.

Van Horn has high praise for McMillan as well: “As a therapist, I have seen Essie open up, grow, challenge herself and learn about her symptoms and diagnoses, and be able to express her needs with positive listening and communication skills. Life will always be full of challenges, but Essie is overcoming.”

For information about Monarch’s mental health services, visit or call (866) 272-7826.

Posted on: Thursday January 6, 2022