On July 17-18, 2019, two Pack Health employees attended the Minority Mental Health Awareness Summit at Birmingham-Southern College. Tamara is a Senior Health Advisor and supervises one of the cardiometabolic teams. Tina is a Senior Content Researcher and helps develop and update existing program content. In this first blog, they explain their engagement at the conference and themes they identified while attending.
Tina: Hey Tamara. Describe what you did during the conference!
Tamara: I attended a Mental Health first aid training class on the first day of the conference. Our dynamic class was taught by C.J. Slay, LPC, NCC of Motivated Evolution (motivatedevolution.org). During the 8 hour class, I was surrounded by people from all professional backgrounds: the judicial systems, private practices, clergy, health care practitioners, retirees, and even grandparents. We all entered the training with the same mission: break the stigma of mental illness, become more knowledgeable and comfortable about the topic of mental illness and learn to become a solace to loved ones, friends and even ourselves. We learned how to assess a mental health crisis for risk of suicide or harm, ask the uncomfortable questions, listen non judgmentally, give reassurance and information, encourage professional health, and encourage self-help and support strategies. All of this profound information was supported with interactive lessons, activities and role-plays. What about you, Tina?
Tina: On the second day, I attended panels, presentations and a community conversation about decriminalizing mental health. I would like to talk about the mental health storytelling panel though! There were four African American panelists who shared their mental health struggles, with three sharing stories of depression, bipolar disorder, and suicide ideation. The fourth panelist shared the story of his sister, who committed suicide at 17, and how he used that painful experience to start a suicide and mental health foundation. All of them published their empowering and transparent stories and one even has a weekly podcast.
Tamara: Wow! That sounds amazing. Did you notice themes during your time at the conference, because I did!
Tina: What did you notice?
Tamara: There were many themes that were prominent during our training. Two primary themes that stood out the most were being comfortable with being uncomfortable and learning to listen non judgmentally. Acknowledging, understanding and addressing mental illness is a branch of health care that is rooted in the stigma that prevents many individuals from seeking or receiving the care that they need. What about you, Tina?
Tina: Well, I found that throughout the day, but particularly on this panel, there was a focus on the importance of being both seen and heard. The moderator, Dr. Eliza Belle, concluded the panel, saying to the panelists, “I see you.”
Tamara: I think that is a wonderful segway into our next chat because it is important for all people who may read this chat or may experience a mental health crisis to know, more and more people are learning to “see you” and not only that but to understand and support you. This is no longer an individual effort, but a strong community who is ready to make a difference in the lives of many.
Stay tuned for the next blog post where Tina and Tamara describe what they enjoyed learning most about the conference and how this knowledge will help them better serve Pack Health members in the future.