Empowering Strong Minds: Mental Health Matters

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Empowering Strong Minds: Mental Health Matters

For the first time I attended the Wilmington Alumnae Chapterof Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.’s 2nd Annual Empowering StrongMinds and Healthy Hearts. The focus was on restoring hope in our families andcommunities as it pertains to mental health. This event was in partnership withthe Gamma Theta Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. at BayardMiddle School in Wilmington, Delaware.

The event included over 200 women/men attendees, vendors, volunteers including a group of girls from Delaware State University, and guest speakers who gave their expertise regarding trauma, addiction recovery, self-care, and more!

At check-in, each attendee received a bag with a folder of events for the day and a list of African American Behavioral Health Providers in Delaware ranging from psychologist to therapist to counselors and social workers.

Attendees checking in at the registration table

The morning kicked off with a welcome from Delta Sigma Theta president, Karen Bostick, followed by a history of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. from their current president, Larry Johnson, and finished with an invocation from Senior Pastor at Harvest Christian Fellowship Church, Dr. Meredith L. Griffith Jr.

The Chair of the Physical and Mental Health Committee, Sarah S. Harrison set the tone for the day by providing the conference objectives surrounding our need to fight addiction in the black community. Harrison also gave acknowledgements of elected officials and introduced our current Wilmington Mayor, Mike Purzycki who provided a proclamation. The mayor made it clear that there is not just “one solution” to dealing with mental health.

Mike Purzycki, City of Wilmington Mayor
Sarah Harrison, Chair of Physicail and Mental Health Committee

Lieutenant Governor Bethany Hall Long shared her fierce commitment to ensuring we provide resources from the cradle to the grave for addiction, autism, and Alzheimer’s. However, currently she is focused on the biggest public health epidemic in our state: the opiod crisis. She shared with the audience how anyone can get trained to use Narcan to help those in need in our community.

Bethany Hall Long, Lieutenant GovernorNewly elected 3rd district senator, Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman spoke briefly as well

Delta Sigma Theta member, Dr. Karla Cooper officially kicked off the informational portion of the event by asking audience members to complete a survey and then she introduced the keynote speaker, Dr. Clarence Watson (JD/MD), Medical Director, DE Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health.

Dr. Karla Cooper

Dr. Watson covered a range of topics as it pertained to mental health, however he started with his own personal journey of dealing with a patient that forever changed his life.

Dr. Clarence Watson

He had a patient who lived a relatively normal life who he treated with Bipolar disorder. It reminded him that people with mental illness are still people.

Watson then shared what mental illness is, what a substance abuse disorder is and what it does to the brain, and the statistics of people impacted by mental illness starting with adolescents through adults.

Dr. Watson revealed that 1 in 5 U.S. adult live with mental illness, and young adults aged 18-25 had the highest prevalence of (AMI) any mental illness compared to adults and older Americans.

Substance Use Disorder – is a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is manifested by compulsive substance abuse use despite harmful consequence.

Dr. Watson made the point that people dealing with stress or Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) such as economic hardship, divorce, death of a parent, domestic violence, etc. were more prone to mental health disease. There is a test that anyone can take to identify how many ACEs factors you may have via Google.

He stated eloquently, “Once people get addicted to opioids it becomes such a common part of a person’s life that they are no longer using it to get high. But, they are using it to feel normal so that it doesn’t feel like all hell is breaking loose.”

Following Dr. Watson’s presentation, Arnell Warren, a client in recovery expressed his heartfelt journey recovering from this epidemic and encouraged the audience to provide more support and love to those who are coming through this healing process.

Arnell Warren, A Client in Recovery

Audience members got to take a quick break before participants move to the final morning presentation. After the break, Dr. Richard Cooper, Clinical Assistant Professor of Social Work at Widener University gave a brief yet insightful talk shedding light on black men and mental health called, Black Men and Mental Illness.

Dr. Richard Cooper

Dr. Cooper emphasized that many mental health theories and practices are outdated because they fail to address the unique needs of black and brown people. He also noted that black men often fall into depression or are unable to express their emotions because they are not taught how to handle sadness and anger which often becomes rage and violence that unfortunately negatively impacts black women.

Dr. Richard Cooper,
Clinical Assistant Professor of Social Work at Widener University

After his remarks, Dr. Copper moderated a panel discussionwith Arnell Warren, Dr. Watson, Alberta Crowley of Phoenix House, Joseph Stancellfrom National Association of Mental Illness/Delaware (NAMI), and Dr. LaKreetraM. Josey.

(Left to Right)
Joseph Stancell from National Association of Mental Illness/Delaware (NAMI), Dr. LaKreeta M. Josey, Dr. Richard Cooper, Alberta Crowley of Phoenix House, Dr. Watson, and Arnell Warren.

Alberta Crowley emphasized that as someone who has suffered from mental illness that recovery needs to be treated more holistically with mental, emotional, and spiritual solutions.

Josey shared the importance of recognizing that children often struggle with their behavior because they don’t know how to manage their anxiety or sadness. Watson explained that when a child’s life is impacted by trauma that disrupts their level of security in life, and therefore calls for a greater level of love to be given to them.

Stancell from NAMI-Delaware noted that most mental health disorders are prevalent by age 14 with 75% of people with them have symptoms by age 24.

As Dr. Cooper moderated, he opened it up to the audience forquestions. One audience member asked about how to handle a family member whoappears successful on the surface and refuses to get additional help withmental illness.

As the morning presentations concluded before lunch, we experienced two lively performances from Pieces of a Dream Dance Academy with a special performance echoing the emotions of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and it ended with a high energy performance by an all-male ensemble from Essence Legacy Drill Team, based at the Walnut Street YMCA in Wilmington.

Pieces of a Dream, Inc.Essence Legacy Drumline

 The morning was jam packed with valuable information that led to a lunch break in the cafeteria. Attendees visited a plethora of exhibitors in the hall as they move to the lunch room.

Organizations represented at tables were AIDS Delaware, Delaware Division of Prevention and Behavioral Health Services, Highmark Delaware Health Options, United Way of Delaware, and many others provided information and insight.

Exhibitors in the hallways of Bayard Middle School

During a brief lunch break, attendees enjoyed sandwiches, chips, and cookies as they mixed and mingled before the afternoon sessions began.

Lunch in the cafeteria

Around 1:10pm, attendees participated in two empowerment and self-care workshops. Presenters ranged from:

  • Five Stressors of African American Men by Dan Munford , Board Certified Dietician and Exercise Psychologist
  • Trauma: What is it and How Does it Affect Your Child?, Dr. Karen Stallings, Certified School Social Worker
  • Mindfulness Meditation, Dr. Karla Cooper
  • Managing Stress through Physical Fitness, Byrnia Johnson, Choreographer and Director
  • Adult Coloring, Dr. Kietra Winn, Licensed Therapist
  • Chair Yoga, Dr. Heather Townsend, ED.D, Educator
  • My Sister’s Keeper, Dr. LaKeetra M. Josey, PhD

It was imperative that the male attendees attend a session that would help them deal with daily stress triggers.

Five Stressors of African American Men by Dan Munford ,
Board Certified Dietician and Exercise Psychologist

 Dr. Karen Stallingssession on dealing with trauma with children was very informative as she sharedwith us the difference between a normal brain and one that has experiencedtrauma. She provided us with  greathandouts on the effects of trauma and useful insight on the steps to helpingkids cope with trauma.

Dr. Karen Stallings, Certified School Social Worker

Brynia Johnson had attendees on the gym floor getting their bodies in motion through simple fitness techniques to get their blood pumping through physical fitness.

Brynia Johnson, Choreographer, Director, and Producer

Dr. LaKeetra M. Josey of Your Counseling Services and Medication Management, empowered attendees to be their Sister’s Keeper by first taking care of self by meditating more, releasing tension, and eating healthier foods  that don’t cause more worry, doubt, and stress.

Dr. LaKeetra M. Josey of Your Counseling Services and Medication Management

Adult Coloring, Dr. Kietra Winn, Licensed Therapist

Chair Yoga, Dr. Heather Townsend, ED.D, Educator

Mindfulness Meditation in the library

The day wrapped up with attendees completing a post survey digitally through their phones and attendees winning raffles in the auditorium. This event was particularly impactful because the topic is so relevant and much needed in our community.

As Dr. Karen Stallings noted, 43.8 million people in the U.S. experience mental illness in a given year. Thus revealing that there is absolutely no way for an individual to not be touched by mental health in America. We all needed to hear the information presented on this day!

Dr. K and I

The event committee did a great job of selecting very wellinformed and engaging speakers to break down the information in an easilyaccessible manner that we can use and take back to our community.

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FIERCE Quotes to Live By

If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive

— Audre Lorde

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