Former Child Caretaker Dr. Sheila D. Williams Uses Background to Help Others With Mental Illness…

Hello World,

Although mental health issues within the black community is not as much of a taboo subject as it once was, I think we can all agree that there is still more work to be done. As a storyteller, I’m always drawn into issues through a great story, and Dr. Sheila D. Williams, author of “My Mother’s Keeper,” has a great story addressing mental health.

She was the one who gave birth to her, became her first friend and encouraged her to try school that scary kindergarten year, which led her to a lifelong love of education. Yet where author Dr. Sheila D. Williams learned most from her mother was during her mother’s battle with clinical depression and later diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. Her autobiography, entitled “My Mother’s Keeper,” chronicles Sheila’s sometimes dysfunctional but endearing friendship with her mother, which endured a parental role reversal when her mother’s mental health issues forced Sheila to be responsible for herself at age ten. Sheila later details her memories of still seeing the embodiment of the Proverbs 31 woman within her mom, as she later became her mother’s primary caregiver. “My Mother’s Keeper ” is a moving tribute to the power of a mother-daughter bond that defied the odds, both externally and internally, and thrived in love until the end.

See my interview with Dr. Sheila D. Williams, who is a mental health therapist, author, motivational speaker and certified national trainer/educational consultant, below.

1.You were the primary caretaker for your mother from the age of 10 until she passed away years ago. Did you recognize the symptoms of her clinical depression? Is clinical depression in any way hereditary?

Yes, from the age of 10 years old, there was a role reversal that occurred between my mother and me. I found myself being more responsible for preparing my own meals, doing my own laundry, styling my hair, etc., often without the assistance of my mother. I was always a bit more mature for my age, however at 10 years old, it was a very pivotal point in our relationship in which I realized that it wasn’t because my mother didn’t want to assist me; it was because she mentally and physically could not. I found myself checking on her and making sure she was okay; this became my top priority.

At the age of 10, I did not know it was clinical depression, nor did she or my father. We simply knew that my mother was not well, and that she most often was fragile mentally and emotionally. Because her mental illness was inaccurately diagnosed, she associated the way she felt with a medical condition of some sort, and was treated with muscle relaxers, pain relievers, etc. It wasn’t until I was in my early 20s that she was diagnosed accurately.

Research indicates that there is a hereditary component to mental illness. However, environmental factors — life stressors, inability to cope, lack of strong support system, etc. — these external factors seem to be more influential on the likelihood a person will experience mental illness at some point in their lives.

2.Why did you write your book “My Mother’s Keeper” and what type of feedback have you received? 

I wrote “My Mother’s Keeper” as a memoir for my mother and her legacy. Because she felt as if she were different, that she didn’t fit in, she was often embarrassed and ashamed. She didn’t feel that she was good enough. She thought that no one would care to hear her story. I always worked to dispel her insecurities, but it continued throughout her life. Before she passed away, she and I discussed me telling her story. The story of her life is an integral component of my life and my journey. I wrote “My Mother’s Keeper” not only as a memoir, but as an autobiography and introduction to my life’s story. I chose to be transparent about my life and mental illness, to not only bring hope and healing to anyone who is dealing with mental illness or any other life situations or circumstances, but also to those who are experiencing any other life situations or circumstances.

In your book, you stated that you were told by a guidance counselor in high school that college was “not for you.” How did you move past that negative critique and continue your education?  

Throughout my entire life, I’ve always been a good student. I worked to excel in education and received numerous awards and recognition for my exceptional academic standing and participation in extracurricular activities and community service. With this track record, I always knew I wanted to attend college. Although I wasn’t sure how I’d pay for college, it was something I had planned to do since I was in middle school. When I was in 10th grade, the conversation about plans after high school was discussed with every student. After several meetings with my guidance counselor, I informed him that I had aspirations and intentions of attending college. He encouraged me to sign up to take the ASVAB military entrance exam and told me that he felt that college was ‘not for me.’ He never indicated why he felt this way, but clearly it could not have been because of my academic standing or my drive and determination.

Initially, I was devastated by this, but that devastation quickly turned and it became fuel for me to make my goal of attending college a reality. Not only did I want to make attending college a reality, I wanted to finish college, then complete an advanced degree and not have student loans once I finished. I was able to accomplish all of these goals. I now am very thankful that I had that experience as it increased my motivation and my ability to persevere. I exceeded my own expectations.

3. As of this month, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal formed the Commission on Children’s Mental Health to study Georgia’s approach to providing mental health care. How do you feel about this news, and what do you hope the commission will address?

I am very excited to hear of the Governor’s Commission on Children’s Mental Health. In my experience, I often find that the mental health of children is often forgotten. It is important to understand that although children are resilient, they are the product of their environment, their circumstances, and their experiences. If they are in a home where there is domestic violence, verbal abuse, or even financial difficulties, this can have a negative impact on the child’s self-esteem, their ability to effectively communicate, their self-perception and the list goes on. If you compound these stated issues with having a parent or loved one who suffers from mental illness, it is an even much more critical case. If a parent suffers from mental illness, unless they are effectively managing their mental illness and receiving treatment, it could negatively affect their ability to care for their child. Much as was the case with my mother.

When a child is being raised by a parent who has a mental illness that is untreated, undiagnosed, and/or one who is stigmatized and embarrassed to get help, it often leaves the child in a state of confusion and insecurity, and with feelings of despair. This ultimately could lead to depression and other forms of mental illness in the child. It is my hope that the Governor’s Commission will address the whole child, taking into consideration that although the child himself may not have a mental illness, they may be dealing with adult responsibilities at home, which may include a parent or caregiver that suffers from mental illness — all of which may negatively affect that child’s emotional and psychological well-being.

4. As a Christian, how does your Christian faith affect your career in the mental health field?

As a Christian, my belief is that we are all here for a purpose. I believe that my purpose here is to change lives and create positivity in a world that is often very negative. As a proponent and an advocate for mental health, I feel very blessed to have been born to my mother (and my father). The experiences we have throughout life can at times be very challenging; however, I believe that with each challenge there is also opportunity. As a very young child, I didn’t understand what was going on with my mother.

By the age of 10, I realized my mother was different and that her difference made her even more beautiful. Later in life she was also diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which compounded her disability from being one that couldn’t be seen (depression) to one that physically was quite visible with her fingers, arms and legs all contracted. Even so, she was still beautiful. I came to realize the beauty in even my challenges and imperfections. I believe that this is what life is all about.

My Christian faith lets me know that although we enjoy personal growth and accomplishments, our true joy and life’s blessings are obtained when we find ways to give to others; that is what brings me the most satisfaction. My experiences, both personal and professional, with mental illness have been a gift. The knowledge I’ve obtained has been a blessing. It is my purpose to further educate, motivate and empower others to silence the shame that is associated with mental illness and to embrace our differences, no matter what those differences may be.

5. How prevalent is mental illness in the black community, and what can the black church do to support mental health awareness and treatment? 

Within the black community, the subject of mental illness is still very taboo, unfortunately. There are many people within the black community who have undiagnosed mental illness or have been diagnosed with a mental illness, but chose not to take medication or get therapy. These individuals, unfortunately, are suffering in silence. By failing to see a mental health professional, to follow up with treatment or refusing to take prescribed psychotropic medications, their mental illness not only affects them, but it affects their families, loved ones and the entire community.

As a Christian woman, I have a strong faith, and believe in God and the power of prayer. However, at times in the black church we fail to acknowledge and expound upon the importance of physical and mental health. Although prayer and motivation are important, and I personally know the benefits of each, it is also important for the black church to encourage and promote mental health awareness. We often seek the help and advice of medical physicians, but we fail to seek that same help and assistance from mental health professionals when our emotional and psychological well-being is in jeopardy. I feel it a responsibility of all of us to promote and encourage 360 degrees of wellness, and this includes our mental health.

6. What are your favorite topics to speak on as a motivational speaker and why?

My favorite speaking topic is The Transformational Mindset. I truly enjoy speaking on this topic because I am a firm believer and it is my motto that ‘Our Thoughts Become Our Reality.’ Regardless of what age, gender, culture or religious beliefs my audience is, this applies to everyone. We often get accustomed to thinking a certain way, which leads us to believe certain things. These belief systems (which sometimes can be flawed or misconceptions) tend to cause us to speak and behave a certain way. By speaking and acting upon misconceptions or negative beliefs, we hinder productivity and the likelihood of personal and professional growth.

The Transformational Mindset is a way of life. I began my journey of transformation at 10 years old. Rather than seeing my mother’s differences, her mental illness, etc., as a weakness, I saw it as a strength. I embraced those differences and used them to change my insecurities into strengths. I was able to see my mother’s mental illness as a blessing and an opportunity to learn more about who I am, embrace that person wholeheartedly and be a blessing to others.

7. What has been your biggest victory as a mental health therapist?

During high school, I wanted to be an astronaut and was very good in math and decided to major in it once I got to college. However, with the symptoms my mother exhibited, they didn’t seem to match the diagnoses that the physicians were giving her. I started to read up on her symptoms on my own, as I was always a bit of a researcher, even at an early age. The study of psychology not only sparked my interest, but also educated me on many of the emotions I had myself. It was through these readings and research that I decided to change my major to psychology rather than math. It was less than one year after I graduated with my BA in psychology that my mother finally was correctly diagnosed with clinical depression.

After completing my BA in psychology, I went on to pursue and complete my MA in mental health counseling. In addition, I earned a Ph.D. in education and leadership. I’ve worked for many years as a mental health therapist and counselor. Having the educational knowledge, the professional experience and personal experience of caring for my mother who suffered from mental illness has all been a blessing. It was destined that this would be my career path.

My biggest victory is not only being able to survive the many challenges I’ve faced in my life, but to be able to thrive while doing it. Everything that happens happens for a reason. I believe that my experiences were not only lessons for me, but what I’ve learned from those experiences has afforded me the opportunity to use those lessons in a positive way to assist others on their journeys as well. This has been the biggest victory of all.

If you would like more information about Dr. Sheila D. Williams, please go to her website

Any thoughts?


‘War Room’ 12-Year-Old Actress Alena Pitts & Mother Pen Children’s Book ‘Hello Stars!’ (INTERVIEW)

Book Giveaway!

Hello World,

In honor of mothers on Mother’s Day, I want to introduce you to 12-year-old Alena Pitts and her mother Wynter Pitts who co-wrote the new book Hello Stars, the first book in the Lena in the Spotlight series from Faithgirlz! Below is the synopsis of the book.

Young Lena Daniels never thought she’d get the chance star in a movie. Headstrong and determined, she has her life planned out to the minute. But when her best friends, Savannah and Emma, tell her about an audition for a part co-starring her favorite singer, she knows there’s nothing else in the world she’d rather do. And now that she’s gotten her wish, Lena finds that being in the spotlight is harder than it sounds. She got everything she never wanted! Her face turns up everywhere she goes, and everything in her life is flipped upside down. Lena wonders if this is a dream come true or a horrible nightmare. Even a visit from her best friends during filming turns into a disaster. With her little sisters—Ansley, Ashton, and Amber—and her mischievous pup, Austin, constantly at her side, Lena must face the challenges of everyday life while chasing her dreams of being a model and actress on the big screen. Lena tackles tough choices, learns the value of perseverance, and keeps her hopes high. She knows her faith and family will keep her feet on the ground and her eyes on the stars.

As an author for Faithgirlz, which is offered through Zonderkidz, the children’s division of Zondervan, Alena is the youngest, African-American female author with a major book publisher! You may already be familiar with Alena, who portrayed Danielle Jordan in the 2015 hit film War Room! Below is my interview with Alena & her mother Wynter…

1. How does it feel to be the youngest, African- American female author to be represented by a major book publisher?

Alena: Kind of surreal still. Like it hasn’t really hit me. So it’s crazy. I’m just grateful that it happened to me! And then I’m like, ‘Thank you God!’

And how did you get a book deal for Hello Stars?

Alena: So, my mom was like, ‘Hey Alena, do you want to write a book together?’ I was like, ‘Sure.’ My mom was like, ‘That would be so fun!’ I really didn’t think that was going to happen, but she was like, ‘Let’s just pray about it.’  So I prayed about it not really expecting anything to happen. So like two weeks later, we got an e-mail from Zondervan asking if we wanted to write a book for them. So I was like, ‘Wow, this must be God’s plan!’ (Laughter)

Wynter: It literally happened just like that! It was just this random thought I had one day, and I just looked at her and said, ‘It would be so fun if we wrote a book together.’ And that was it. And then, a few weeks later, we got an e-mail from Faithgirlz saying they wanted to talk to us about the project. It was so bizarre. Because of my ministry with girls, I had done some Faithgirlz product giveaways and helped them promote some things so I had a relationship with the publicist there. Since then, I found out the publicist mentioned our names to their team over the last year or so, but I didn’t know anyone else on the team!

2. I understand that Lena’s story is based on what has happened in your life as you starred in War Room.

Alena: Well, the book is about Lena Daniels, and my nickname is Lena. That was where I got her name from. And the book was about how she wanted to be in control, and she had her whole life planned out until God was like, ‘No, you’re going to be in a movie and then, you’re going to do this for me. And none of this stuff you have planned for yourself is going to happen.’ And she was like, ‘Wow, I can’t be in control.’ But she found out over time that going with God’s plan is way better than anything she ever dreamed of and that’s kind of like my life.

I had my whole life planned out, my job and what I wanted to do when I grow up. But then I got an audition for a movie. And I was like, ‘Wow, this is crazy!’ And I had to learn to give it all to God! And let Him be in control. So the story line is based on my entire life. And a lot of the funny things that happen in the story are actually real.

So you had your whole life planned out already at 12 years old?

Alena: Yes. My original plan was to do a couple of things. One of my plans was to go to law school and become a lawyer because I love to debate and stuff. But then I figured out how long law school was! Then I was like, ‘Nah!’ Then, I was like, I guess I will be a singer and learn to play some instruments. I still kind of pursue that. But another part of me was like I want to be a professional volleyball player which I still want to do. But based on my life, anything is possible, and you don’t have to stick with one thing your entire life. That’s really boring.

3. So Hello Stars is just the first book in the Lena in the Spotlight series. What can your readers expect in the future books in the series?

Alena: Expect more surprises, more plot twists.

Wynter: Lena continues to grow in her faith and in learning to let go of her plans.

Alena: Yeah because she doesn’t fully learn to let go in the first book! So she goes along on that journey in all three books.

4. You portrayed Danielle Jordan in War Room? How did you get to audition for that role?

WAR ROOM, from left: Alena Pitts, Priscilla C. Shirer, 2015. ©Sony Pictures Releasing

Alena: My aunt [Priscilla C. Shirer] was one of the main characters in the movie, and she asked me if if I wanted to audition because they were looking for a little girl to play the part of Danielle. I was like, ‘Sure, I would love to do that.’ But I really didn’t think I would get it. But I kept auditioning and auditioning, and it came down to me and this other little girl. I was like, ‘Wow, this could actually be real. This could actually be what I do in the future.’ I just kept praying about it, and I got a call and I was asked to be in the movie. I was like, ‘Goodness. Sure!’

5. What was it like being on set every day with the Kendrick Brothers,  a the Christian brothers who produced the film?

Alena: I like to say it was like church. In the morning, we had prayers. It was different than a normal movie set. And it was a lot better than a normal movie set. And then throughout the day, we would stop and pray if something went wrong. And it was really fun because there were a lot of kids there who were a part of the movie like the double-dutchers.

(Check out behind-the-scenes footage of the double-dutch scenes from “War Room” below)

Where was War Room filmed?

Alena: It was filmed in Charlotte, North Carolina.

And now you want to be an actress?

Alena: I wouldn’t say that. But like I was saying before, if another opportunity comes up, I would definitely say yes to something I felt had God had for me. But I wouldn’t say I would be an actress for the rest of my life.

Wynter: I just encourage her and tell her that when God lays things on her heart or brings things to her just like auditioning for “War Room” to just say yes to it. Even in writing the book. I want her to say yes to the opportunities that God brings her way.

6. As a co-writer for Hello Stars, how did you contribute to the book?

Wynter: Well, Alena would write the outline and the plot, and she would sent it to me. And then I would help to stretch it out. I would add words and make the story longer.

7. Other than the book Hello Stars, is there something from the War Room experience that the both of you took away that stays with you today.

Wynter: For me, just the whole point of the movie is that prayer works. And not just saying, ‘Lord, give me this, give me that.’ But when we have a heart that really wants to serve God and wants to see Him glorified in our lives, when we commit that to prayer, He is able to do amazing things!

Alena: Yes, prayer works and prayer is possible. When I was younger, before the movie, I really didn’t think prayer was something for me. I thought it was for older people because they always had testimonies about everything that happened. But I never heard a little kid talk about the power of prayer so I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s not for me yet.’ I will wait until I get older. But then during the movie, I started to pray, and I was like, ‘Wow, this is something that happens for everyone.’ God doesn’t just listen to older people. I like to say that God’s favorite people are little kids! And I will keep saying that until I get older. (Laughter)

Below is a video of Wynter and her daughter Alena talking about Hello Stars.

About the Author: Alena Pitts is a young actress and model from Dallas, Texas.  As the oldest of four girls, Alena first cut her teeth in acting through making home videos and dramas with her sisters, using their entire home as their recording studio.  She has a natural love for all things creative which falls right in line with her gifts and talents. The Kendrick Brothers’ War Room marks Alena’s professional acting debut. With only school theater on her young resume, Alena jumped at a chance to audition for the role of Danielle Jordan. In addition to school and acting, Alena models and is a frequent contributor for the magazine For Girls Like You.

 About the Co-Author: Wynter Pitts is the founder of For Girls Like You magazine and the author of For Girls Like You: A Devotional for Tweens and You’re God’s Girl. The mother of four girls, Wynter’s mission is to empower and equip girls to walk boldly into becoming who God has created them to be and to provide parents with the resources and support needed to raise strong Christ followers. In addition to publishing the quarterly magazine, Wynter is a frequent blogger, a contributor for LifeWay’s ParentLife Magazine, and a public speaker. She is also the niece of Dr. Tony Evans. Wynter, her husband, Jonathan, and their four daughters (ages 6-12), reside in Dallas, Texas.

Thanks to  Alena and Wynter, I’m giving away a free copy of Hello Stars to the first person who emails the answers to these questions: What star from a ’80s to ’90s sitcom starred in a Kendrick Brothers film? What was the name of the sitcom? And what was the name of the film? Email your answer to me at

Any thoughts?











Kick Off Holy Week With ‘The Case for Christ’ Movie!

Hello World,

My mind is never far from thinking about Jesus Christ and His love for me and you…But during this week, Holy Week, I hope all of us intentionally reflect on the ultimate price Jesus Christ paid in sacrificing His life for us. One movie that may help you to do that is The Case for ChristThe synopsis of The Case for Christ, which premiered on Friday, is below.

A hard-driving journalist, Lee Strobel was exactly where he expected to be at work: on top. His award-winning investigative reporting recently earned him a promotion to legal editor at the Chicago Tribune. But things weren’t going nearly as well at home where his wife Leslie’s newfound faith in Christ went against everything Lee believed—or didn’t believe—as an avowed atheist. 

Lee Strobel

Utilizing his journalistic and legal training, Lee begins a quest to debunk the claims of Christianity in order to save his crumbling marriage. Chasing down the biggest story of his career, Lee comes face-to-face with unexpected results that could change everything he knows to be true.

 The Case for Christ film features Mike Vogel (The Help), Erika Christensen (Parenthood), Academy Awardwinner Faye Dunaway and Academy Awardnominee Robert Forster.

Jonathan M. Gunn (Do You Believe?) directs The Case for Christ written by Brian Bird, (When Calls the Heart, Touched by An Angel), based on Strobel’s book, which has sold millions of copies worldwide.


–“I am so glad that Lee’s powerful, moving story has finally been made into a film that is equally compelling. It is honest and real, and I highly recommend it.” – Kathie Lee Gifford

–“It was so good that I was sorry when it was over. Just awesome, from beginning to end.” – David Limbaugh, author of Jesus on Trial and The True Jesus

–“This is one of the most powerful evangelistic movies I have ever seen! It connects on every level—logically and emotionally.” – Greg Laurie, author and pastor

–“This movie is a must-see. If you are a follower of Christ, it will strengthen your faith. If you are a skeptic, it will address your questions. If you are an atheist, it will meet you where you are and invite you to take another look.” – Sheila Walsh, best-selling author, singer

See the trailer for The Case for Christ movie below!

Any thoughts?