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March 20, 2024 21 mins

Today’s guest Dr. Nyaka NiiLampti, Vice President of Wellness and Clinical Services at the National Football League  joins host Tommi A. Vincent on Radio Row during Super Bowl LVIII to discuss normalizing the conversation of mental health, viewing mental health on a scale, distinguishing between mental health and mental wellness, her journey to becoming a licensed psychologist, and more.

Dr. Nyaka NiiLampti is determined to get people proactively engaged in their mental health. A few of Dr. Nyaka NiiLampti’s  highlights:

  • Dr. Nyaka NiiLampti is a licensed psychologist with more than fifteen years of clinical experience with organizations, sports teams, individuals, and families.
  • Work focuses on multiculturalism and mental health as they relate to issues of resiliency and success.
  • Works with NFL players to educate them on overall wellness, mental health and substance abuse.

Host: Tommi A. Vincent  

Guests: Dr. Nyaka NiiLampti

Produced by: Tommi A. Vincent, Dimitri Golden, and Motion Hue Productions

Music By: Stichiz - Big T. Music / Roj & Twinkie



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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:01):
Joining us at the table, we have doctor n Yaka
mie Lante, Vice President Wellness and Clinical Services, NFL Vice Chair,
National Action Alliance.

Speaker 2 (00:13):
For Suicide Prediction. Enjoy our conversation.

Speaker 1 (00:17):
Take your seat, get comfortable because it's time to stay
a while.

Speaker 2 (00:22):
I'm your host, Tommy.

Speaker 1 (00:24):
Vincent, doctor and Yaka mie Lanty. Welcome to the table.
How are you today? I'm doing well, I'm settling in.
I'm not actually I'm doing great today. I'm doing great today.
I am I am. So you are in the business
of we're having this conversation. Let me get this straight.

So tell the people what you are a doctor of.
So I am a licensed psychologist with a sports like background.

Speaker 2 (00:54):
So I have.

Speaker 1 (00:57):
I've been doing clinical work probably for twenty five years,
and so in my capacity at the you know, so
I've worked for the NFL as your VP of Wellness
and Clinical Services, so providing wellness resources. So don't be
sitting here while we having this conversation trying to you know,
like read me and like diagnose with me.

Speaker 2 (01:19):
And so Tommy tell me.

Speaker 1 (01:23):
I, like I said, I don't diagnose, like I'm not
gonna do that, but I will turn the question on you.
So how did you get in this space where you
knew this was the type of career and mourned. So
I started out as an engineer, So I tell people

I had no plans on being psychologists. Part of the
reason I like engineering is because it's black and white, right,
there's no gray. It's like humans are a little too gray.

Speaker 2 (01:55):
I can't I.

Speaker 1 (01:56):
Can't do the the inconsistencies, and so it's a space
that I think pick me. I didn't pick it. My
junior year in college. I did a summer internship with
boys and girls clubs, and they the staff said, you
are not an engineer.

Speaker 2 (02:14):
This is what you were meant to be. And so
I went back my junior year and change my major.

Speaker 1 (02:18):
So, you know, I think I think because I've had
such a variety of experiences, I've always been somebody who
feels other people's emotions and energy, which is not necessarily
always been a good thing, absolutely right, and so I
think that made it made it very easy for me
to understand where other people were coming from. I think

that that was just that's just how I'm wired, that's
how I was born, which I think was both a
gifting a curse. As you go through the career of
psychology because you have to figure out you have to
be able to separate, like your stuff from the person
that you're working with and making sure that you are
taking care of yourself as you're trying to take care
of other people. So I think it is it's it's
something that I kind of stumbled into. And I love

the work that I do. I really really I love
the work that I do. So that's actually that's a
skill that everyone can benefit from because anytime you're a
relationship with other people, you can experience and feel what
they're feeling. You can take on not only their emotions,

but you can take on the weight of that experience.

Speaker 2 (03:27):
So how can we.

Speaker 1 (03:33):
Engage with people, care about them, love them, but not
carry the burden of their experience? You know, I like
to say, my job is not to fix it. My
job is to sit here with you and help you
hold it right. And then from that safe space where
people are able to say things that maybe they've never

said to another person, you know, and I don't recoil
or judge or say so you can wrong with you
also understanding you know, how do I empower you to
to kind of go through this and sift through it
and figure out like how to kind of navigate it.
But I also know it's not mine to pick up,

so I like to say, yeah, your job isn't to solve.
I think when we think about people who come to
us and they share and we we want to help,
I think a lot of times our out by nature,
how we want to how we try to help us solve,
to stop someone from hurting, to fix it right, as
opposed to saying I can I'm not gonna try to

fix this, Like you're hurting, and it's okay that you're hurting,
but I can sit here with you in it, and
I can hold the space for you, right, and then
we can together we can figure out what's next.

Speaker 2 (04:50):
But it is. It's it's one of those things that
requires you to know yourself really well.

Speaker 1 (04:56):
And to be patient, right, and to be be okay
with people displaying their emotions because I think just by
nature sometimes you know, seeing that those emotions can be
scary for us, right, absolutely, and to the point of
wanting to fix people. When you care about people immediately,
how can you make it go away so that it's

all better for this person?

Speaker 2 (05:19):

Speaker 1 (05:19):
Well, you so you have the education, the institutional knowledge,
and so you carry that with you with you everywhere
and you go and you're still human, you're still living life,
and you're still you're not exempt from all the things
that you support other people in. Are you more critical

of yourself because you know that when you're just being human?
You know, I think I'm critical of myself because I
you know, I'm a little bit of a perfectionist, and
I'd probably say I'm a little neurotic.

Speaker 2 (05:54):
Right, So.

Speaker 1 (05:56):
Anybody, anybody who knows you knows I've got a ridiculous
high standard. And so you know that all of those
things probably contribute to why I'm self critical. I do think,
you know, there's there's I like to say the therapist
mantra is do as I say, not as I do.

And you know, we can have the book knowledge and
and we know sort of what the things are that
we should be doing, but that's it's hard to practice
it all the time, right and and being and just
like we share to other people, you know, be self compassion,
to give yourself grace.

Speaker 2 (06:30):
I have to work on doing the same for myself.
You know.

Speaker 1 (06:34):
I have to make sure that I have people in
my circle who you know can call me out say hey,
you know, I need you to this. This isn't good,
this is not sustainable. Let's let's take a beat, let's pause.
I need you to take you know, block off. I'm
going to print blocked off my calendar. It was like,
you need to take a vacation. And so I think

the biggest challenges just making sure that I making sure
that I connect to those people, connect with those people
so that they can kind of keep me round it
when I need to be. Yeah, I want to go
back to the moment where you talked about you made
when you were working at the Boys and Girls Club
and you made a decision to do a pivot from

your major from engineering into psychology in that moment and
knowing that we have the ability to reset into pivot
and to change our minds. But when you were in
that moment, was it an easy decision or did you.

Speaker 2 (07:36):
Did you believe let me? Let me?

Speaker 1 (07:38):
Did you believe what they told you when they said
you're not an engineer, you're a psychologist? Not necessarily, I
knew I was miserable and engineering. Okay, right, so there's
that's one thing I wasn't loving it. I was also
a student athlete, and you know, balancing engineering and athletics
is a challenge.

Speaker 2 (07:59):
But I but I I was miserable. I mean that
was very clear and so uh.

Speaker 1 (08:04):
And then I had a lot of friends who were
taking psychology classes, and so in some ways I was like, okay,
you know what, that makes sense. Let me at least
just that's a path out follow that path. And I
had no idea necessarily what I would do with it.
I didn't grow up in a household where we talked
about those kinds of things. You know, my friends would
probably have said that. They probably would have my friends

would probably have nominated me the least likely to go
back to school. So you know, I would have nominated
myself for that, but go ahead. You know, my friends
were like, you know, and going they knew that they
were to medical school and you know, and I was
easily the least likely to go back to school. And so,

you know, my my senior thesis in the undergrad was
a sports psychology thesis. And I didn't know that you
could have a career pursuing that. Like it just it
didn't cost my mind. And so my first year after college,
I worked in a nonprofit work primarily with boys, so
I don't necessarily so you know, it's only now that
I can sort of look back and say, oh, I

see how that piece connected to this piece that connected
to this piece.

Speaker 2 (09:13):
Right, it all made Since it all makes sense now.

Speaker 1 (09:16):
I think then in the moment, it was more while
this is really hard, I'm also getting so much out
of it that that's what kind of inspired me to
kind of continue to do it. Right, And so I
went and got a master's in sports psych And then
I knew if I didn't go ahead and get a PhD,
I would probably never get one.

Speaker 2 (09:37):
And so then made the decision to get a PhD.

Speaker 1 (09:40):
And and again had no idea what that would mean.

Speaker 2 (09:44):
I had no plans. You know, I didn't know if
I was gonna haveop faculty or do therapy.

Speaker 1 (09:48):
Like most of the people who kind of take that
path have some sense of what they're right, had none.
But I also made sure that what the experiences while
I was in school, I always had to work, and
so I made sure that those work experiences were somehow
connected to what I enjoyed.

Speaker 2 (10:05):
So I worked as a diversity counselor at a prep school.
You know, I worked, Uh, I work.

Speaker 1 (10:11):
I spent some time with the track team while I
was a graduate school, and so all of those pieces together,
now I can say, oh.

Speaker 2 (10:19):
It makes sense, that all makes sense. But then I
had no idea. It was a zero idea.

Speaker 1 (10:24):
So you know, I tell folks all the time, just,
you know, how do you don't necessarily feel like you
have to have it all clearly laid out, because in
some ways that might actually limit some of your options
as opposed to being a little allowing me to be
a little bit more organic. Right.

Speaker 2 (10:42):
That doesn't say don't don't.

Speaker 1 (10:43):
Prepare right right, right, but but don't be so locked
in that you missed opportunities.

Speaker 2 (10:49):
You know.

Speaker 1 (10:50):
I ended up working at the prep school because I
moved across the street from a school that had just
laid a brand new track, and I wanted to use
the track, and so I wouldn't.

Speaker 2 (10:58):
I asked if I could use the track, and they
were like, have you volunteer coach?

Speaker 1 (11:05):
And then two years later they were like, hey, so
we're creating this diversity councilor position based on all the
work that you've done.

Speaker 2 (11:11):
You will love you to help us create that. And
so just again, now all of those pieces make sense.

Speaker 1 (11:16):
Then it was trying to figure out how do I
sort of, you know, get the most out of whatever
this experience is.

Speaker 2 (11:23):
Right now, there is a push at least this is
what I feel happy, this push to.

Speaker 1 (11:32):
Destigmatize mental health and for it to be something that
is just like as if you're taking care of your
body in the gym or taking care of just your
wellness in general, that this is something.

Speaker 2 (11:47):
That we need to make normal. Do you think it's working?

Speaker 1 (11:54):
So let's back up. So I think these are two
different conversations. So I think, what's so the conversation about
these stigmatizing mental health?

Speaker 2 (12:05):
Sometimes I cringe when I hear that, Okay.

Speaker 1 (12:08):
Because to me, mental health in and of itself doesn't
have a stigma. Okay, it's when we equate mental health
to mental illness. I got you that the stigma comes up. Right, Like,
mental health is just like physical health. We all have it,
and so in and of itself, it doesn't have a stigma.
And so so part of it is trying to figure
out how do we make sure that we understand the.

Speaker 2 (12:29):
Entire spectrum of mental health. Right, we all have mental health, but.

Speaker 1 (12:34):
Depending on the day, I may be at once at
any point on that continual rights from excelling and thriving
all the way to being in crisis. Yes, and so
what I try to encourage people to do, and I
tell this to players, I tell this to even family,
you know, especially as athletes wake up in the morning
and they know where they are physically, right, Okay, this
hurts a little bit. That might inform how I practice

or how I stretch. And we did the same thing.
From a mental health perspective, okay, where a must mentally today? Okay,
today I'm struggling. Why that self awareness? That's what I mean.
That's what I think about when I think, hey, we
need to be prioritizing our mental health, right, so making
sure that we are thinking about it and being intentional

about it, just as we are in physical health. So
I do love this idea of you know, because a
lot of times when they say let's destigmatize mental health,
they're saying, let's be comfortable talking about you know, therapy and.

Speaker 2 (13:32):
Anxiety and depression.

Speaker 1 (13:34):
But there's an approach where you can say, well, what
does it mean to every single day? The intentional arrange
absolutely absolutely, and so I do think that there's more
stigma around, you know, Again, mental illness and anxiety and
depression and how do we come and how do we
how do we help to decrease that so that people
are more willing to seek help.

Speaker 2 (13:53):
But I think there's a way that we can integrate just.

Speaker 1 (13:55):
A conversation about where we are from a mental health
perspective that entire continuum, because that allows us to be
intentionally and proactive and then maybe we don't get to
the anxiety and the depression. Right It helps to inform
just our lifestyle, integrating mental health and our lifestyle period.
And I'm glad you brought that up because visually, I'm

seeing a scale in my head, a scale where you could, like,
we wake up and today I could be at a one,
Tomorrow I could be at a five, and the higher
the number goes, I'm moving towards crisis. And I don't
know that we approach life that way. We'll allow for
ourselves to get to the crisis before we tap into

I need to pull back here and address this area
of my life. So I appreciate you calling that out
so that we can actually see there's a progression to
this thing, and if we can see it that way,
we can do a better job of taking care of
our mental walk illness, and that neither that's where it

is right to say, because most of us aren't aware
of our mental health until there is a crisis, right,
and now we are trying to dig ourselves out of
a hole, as opposed to saying, if I can be
thoughtful about my mental health at every and you know,
when things are great, Okay, what what did I do
yesterday that allowed to where you know, I feel like,
oh I can take on the wall, so you know

what you know? Was it a conversation with a supportive friend?
Was it because I went out for a run. And
so because those are the things that we can do, also,
I need to do more of that, right, just gonna
keep me here. But most of the time, we don't
even become aware of where we are from a mental
health perspective until it's that until we're in the red,
is what I like to say, right, if we think

about it from green to yellow to red, right, and
so so that's what I think about when I think, Okay,
let's let's really work on normalizing the conversation around mental health, right,
not about necessarily the therapy. I think everybody needs to
know some scout right, Like I think therapy is a
thing that's clear. But what I try to sell players

is if you can work with somebody on your mental
health at that before it's a crisis, that's truly performance enhancement, right,
and that's for all of us.

Speaker 2 (16:13):
So so that's that.

Speaker 1 (16:15):
And I think when we think about wellness, and you know,
part of the challenge with wellness is that that's become
a trending topic and so now you get so much
sort of some commercialization and all those kinds of things
that that sort of get wrapped up into it. So
you know, when I think about it is let's let's
really think about what it means that it's for, right,
And thinking about wellness is again this wholistic approach versus a.

Speaker 2 (16:37):
Product or you know, I don't know, just because it's
because it's the thing. It's the thing. It's the thing, right,
This is a thing. It's a thing right now. Yeah, yeah,
I know that experience with depression. So for me, it's
not a thing. It's real.

Speaker 1 (16:56):
So I recognize the importance of it and how no
one taught me to tap into my life that way.
And I watched so many women growing up living life depressed.
And I know that now just because of my own experience.
But when I'm seeing how the whole house would be
just in disarray or not getting out of the bed

as a kid, that's type of stuff used to make
me angry at the adults in my life because I'm thinking,
what the heck is wrong with you? We need to eat,
we need to you know, all these things. But now
I realize, oh, this is what was absolutely absolutely, so
I know it's real. It's not made of because a
lot of people think some people are just pretending at

this state of mind. So this is very real to me,
and it's very important to me that people address it
because we deserve to know ourselves well enough that when
we are we don't have to get to crisis. I
don't have to be laid out in the bed for
days before I am like, Okay, Tommy, you know yourself

well enough to know it's time for you to chill,
or you need an extra appointment on the count.

Speaker 2 (18:10):
Absolutely whatever, it's.

Speaker 1 (18:12):
Absolutely and I think that that's you know, And it's
interesting because it's not uncommon, and especially with audiences of color,
right and women of color, it is not uncommon for
me to do a presentation and say, hey, from a
diagnostic perspective, DSM diagnosed, you know, here are the symptoms
of depression. And after someone pulls me aside and says,

I've got eight of the ten of those and never thought,
never knew that that's what that was.

Speaker 2 (18:38):
I thought that that's just how I feel. And I
think that's where we really that's the challenge.

Speaker 1 (18:44):
I think that's where we've missed the vote in terms
of how do we make sure that everyone has mental
health literacy right? Because if everyone has mental health literacy,
then it allows me to know every point on that
continuum and measure that against where I am as opposed to.

Speaker 2 (19:01):
This is just the normal, right, And so when people say, oh,
I didn't know I could feel that.

Speaker 1 (19:06):
I didn't know I was supposed to feel better because
I never no one ever sort of helped me to
think about it.

Speaker 2 (19:11):
From that, we normalize it, right, yes, And so we
normal we normalized struggles.

Speaker 1 (19:16):
And especially if someone who grew up in that depressed household,
who also and we know the depression is genetic, right,
and so who they might also have some of the
genetic predisposition, and so you think this is normal versus
oh wait, wit, wait, these are.

Speaker 2 (19:29):
All the ways that someone can feel and here are
the symptoms. Wait, so I'm I'm you know, I spent
most of my life in the struggling category.

Speaker 1 (19:38):
That's not normal or that's not you know, And I tried,
I sort of put normal in quotes, but yes, you
know what I mean. And I think and I think
that's where the conversation is about. You know, how you
feel and giving language to emotion and you know, and
again knowing what that continuum looks like. I think that's
where we can then sort of say, how do I

create a plan to make sure that I am taking
care of myself and then also that you know, I'm
encouraging the people around me.

Speaker 2 (20:07):
To take care of themselves and to be aware of
some of these things.

Speaker 1 (20:13):
We're and we're coming to the end of our conversation,
but I feel like we can't put a bow on
our conversation because you talked about there are ways that
you can identify that you are you know, deal with
the depression, and there are actual things we can look at.

Speaker 2 (20:31):
So I would love for you.

Speaker 1 (20:34):
To come back for a part team if you're willing
at some point of time, because it's important to me
for people to get this information, have the language around
how they're feeling, and being able to move to this
place where they could really move in a space appealing.
So if you're willing, I would love to see when

we could get you back on the calendar for a
part two, because this is really important to me.

Speaker 2 (21:00):
Like I said, it's my old personal story and people
deserve to be well. Oh, no question. I loved it.
We loved it.

Speaker 1 (21:08):
I thank you so much for taking your time to
come and enjoy and and join me here. I know
that you have a lot of things you could be doing,
but you're here with me, and I do appreciate it. Well,
I I and I appreciate being here with you.

Speaker 2 (21:22):
So thank you. I feel honored. Thank you.

Speaker 1 (21:26):
Good stay weud gone stay a we
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