No More Martyrs - Recommended Reading

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Reflections - Spelman College Women of Color Leadership Conference

During 2013, Valenrich Wellness participated in the Spelman College Women of Color Leadership Conference.  The conference theme was Building Wealth, Entrepreneurship and Paying it Forward.  Valenrich Wellness Founder, Dr. Nadia Richardson, had the extreme honor of speaking with Ms. Judy Smith, the real-life inspiration behind the hit show Scandal, and Dr. Brenda Wade, noted psychology expert, about their insight into mental wellness in Black women.

Dr. Nadia M. Richardson:

The character of Olivia Pope, which is based loosely off of your real life, is very multifaceted.  She shows a lot of emotions and different layers to her identity.  But in your real life, how do you strike your own life balance in order to maintain your own mental wellness when you have such a dynamic type of career?

Ms. Judy Smith:

Well, let me say this about Olivia.  I think the great thing about the show is that it is certainly the first time that there’s been an African American lead on television in a very very long time.  It was important to me that that Olivia as a character has a degree of strength, a level of confidence, feels like she is at the top of her game and is not afraid to show that.  I wanted Olivia to be all those things as well as compassionate, committed to her work and not judgmental.  So those were the kind of things that were important to me when developing the character of Olivia.    

In terms of wellness for me, it was extremely important for me to set what my boundaries and be clear on what my priorities are.  For me, my priorities are my kids and work is work.  It’s a balance.  Yesterday, I was on The View and Barbara Walters mentioned that we went to Saudi Arabia together years ago while she was there interviewing a King.  She reminded me that, while we were there and we were walking from one meeting to another, I was on the phone because I forgot that it was my snack day to get snacks for my child’s the basketball team. So, I’m trying to get that organized as I am working.  It is what we do.  We balance and we have to constantly make sure we’re also getting what we need because that is important. 

Dr. Nadia M. Richardson:
During your workshop, you mentioned one of your books.  Can you share some additional information about that?

Dr. Brenda Wade:

Yes, the book I mentioned is called ‘Love, Joy and Peace: What Mama Couldn’t Tell Us About Love’.  And the whole point of the book is that my Mother had 7 children, was an educator, a beautiful and elegant woman.  But my Mom was depressed.  And I didn’t know it at the time.  All I knew was that my Mom was mean and angry.  And I didn’t know why she was always hitting us, calling us names and putting us down.  I went on to experience depression as a child and was so depressed so as an undergraduate college student that I could barely get out of the bed and go to class.  So, when I became a clinician and researcher, I was able to recognize that there was a pattern with Black women being angry.  I also discovered research by Dr. Diane Adams who found that the leading symptom of depression for Black women is hyper irritability. 

Dr. Nadia M. Richardson:

Are there other symptoms that are specific to Black women?

Dr. Brenda Wade:

Over-functioning is certainly a symptom.  Women who are over-functioning are (a) burning themselves out or (b) over-functioning for a reason.  In college, I was over-functioning because I was in pain.  I also under-functioned for a while because I was in so much pain that I couldn’t function at all.  At the end of the day, it’s about balance.  And the balance comes from inside of us; from knowing that we are valuable and beautiful.  Everyone of us has a gift that we came here to give.  We should define ourselves for ourselves; define ourselves in terms of our possibilities and those are unlimited. 

Dr. Nadia M. Richardson:

Critics of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) say that it forces practitioners to place labels and define their patients by those labels rather than taking into account the socio-cultural factors that impact how patients perceive themselves and their mental well-being.  What are your thoughts regarding this criticism. 

Dr. Brenda Wade:
I could not agree more with that point of view because unless you have a social context, a family history and understand what coping strategies worked historically for specific groups, you can’t just stick a label.  And I think that sticking a label on is debilitating because labels can never capture an entire person.  Now, I do use labels when I believe it will helpful to the person that I am treating so they take the onus  of their mental distress off of themselves. 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Reflections - 2013 Active Minds Mental Health on Campus Conference

As the year comes to an end, I am reflecting on some of wonderful events Valenrich Wellness participated in during 2013. One such event was the Active Minds Mental Health on Campus Conference in Washington, DC.  Below are some insights from conference participants as well as Alison Malmon, Founder and Executive Director of Active Minds.

Q&A with Alison Malmon, Founder and Executive Director

What are your thoughts on the conference this year?

I am energized, inspired and continue to be amazed by all of the students and advisors who are a part of the Active Minds network.  This is our 10th anniversary conference.  It’s an incredible celebration for us.  Time and time again, I’m more and more impressed by everyone who is a part of the Active Minds network.  I’m just thrilled and honored to have so many awesome people be a part of Active Minds. 

How does Active Minds fulfill their commitment to diversity? 

We are an organization that is committed to representing and being inclusive of everybody and anybody, regardless of who you are.  We are inherently an organization that is essentially fighting for the underdog; fighting for a cause and group of people who are traditionally not included in mainstream society.  And so we take our approach to mental health and we apply it to whatever your background; whether it be socioeconomic, racial, gender identity, or sexual orientation.  Our whole mission is to create a society and environment where people feel accepted, appreciated and get the support that they need for whatever reason they need it. 

What are some of your key initiatives for the upcoming year?

We are celebrating our 10th anniversary year right now so we’ve been able to look to the next decade.  We will continue to enjoy chapter growth.  We expect that we will build our chapter network even beyond the 435 chapter that we have right now.  We are embarking on a ‘Send Silence Packing’ suicide awareness tour this spring and will be expanding our speaker’s bureau.  We’re also rolling out some institutional change campaign programming for our chapters to achieve long term institutional change on their campus.

 Participant Reflections

I feel like I’ve really benefited from the conference.  I feel more empowered to kind of 
change the world in a way.    It’s been a great experience.  
- Sandy,  Worcester State University

There’s been a lot of great conversations about how to create change on different.  I know that a lot of people have taken some great ideas away from this conference.  It’s real exciting.
- Emily, Bard College 

I was really impressed by all of the enthusiasm that a lot of students showed during all of the pre-conference leadership workshops as well as the conference workshops.  I saw a lot of enthusiasm and passion that a lot of first time and returning attendees have shown.  It’s really given me a lot of hope for what will happen in the next 10 years with Active Minds.
- Russell,  Illinois Institute of Technology

I think it’s a great conference. I’m learning a lot. I’m really learning that it’s important to tell your story and let people know that they’re not alone and that we’re all in this to support each other.  
- Kizmit, Kennesaw State University 

Just being able to talk to other active minds clubs and learn what they’re doing to communicate with the students on their campuses. That has been really wonderful and being able to bounce ideas off of each other has been an awesome experience.
- Amanda, Kennesaw State University

We’re a new chapter; just a little bit over a year old.  So, this has been cool because we’ve been trying to incorporate the Active Minds culture at Kennesaw State. 
 Now we know what it looks like to have a lot of members.
- Ken, Kennesaw State University