By Zasha Hayes
East Los Angeles College’s Umoja Program partnered with Art With Impact to guide students about how mental health should be discussed during Black History month.
Marlene Padron asked attendees to introduce themselves and explain What does self-care looks like for each person these days.
Padron said mental health and its affects on those people are handled differently in different communities. Communities deal with the topic in their manor. Even media portrays it in their own way.
Three short movies were shown during the meeting about mental health. Each film encouraged an open conversation about mental illness and the stigma around it.
Throughout the meeting, Padron said attendees could leave the meeting to gain their bearings. Stepping out for a short while was alright and she said that there were Mental Health Support people in the chat who were willing to talk and listen to those affected.
The first film, “The Blind Stigma,” by filmmaker Stacy-Ann Buchanan, is a short documentary featuring various people in the African-American community who struggle with mental health.
The stigma on mental health results in the withdrawal of individuals actively looking for help and support. This happens until they realize that their struggles were bigger than the stigma.
The second film, “Still We Thrive,” directed by Campbell X, illustrates the history of African-American culture. The film takes the audience through the trading of Black slaves, to the times of segregation Jim Crow laws and up to the protests of the 21st Century. Tied into the film is the history of mental health and illness in African-American culture.
As the title suggests, the film focused on how the community has risen through its struggles and resilience to thrive. It did so even after several attempts were made to slander the Black community with false stereotypes.
The final film, “Esther and Sai,” directed by Rosie Choo daughter of Sai Choo, and Anaisa Visser, depicted two women who find themselves facing the same struggles. Both are immigrants, Esther from Nigeria and Sai from China, who are constantly racially profiled. They find comfort and support in each other when they find they share their struggles and a class in university.
After every short film, Padron encouraged attendees to participate in voluntary activities. The activities included controlled breathing, a body scan—a short break that had participants become aware of their own bodies and the sensations they felt.
The attendees could answer polls that focused on how they were feeling. The polls also focused on feelings the short films brought out of those watching.
With the first half of the meeting finished, Padron introduced the panelists.
ELAC student Rachel Ballard, 39, said how difficult it had been growing up because of her depression. Ballard wanted the participants to understand the importance of self-care.
“I wouldn’t be where I am right now without finding the proper support,” Ballard said.
After Ballard, Jessica Olivas, a coordinator at ELACs Student Health Center, said how it was important to take advantage of the Student Health Center. She gave information on where to find help and how to get it.
The last panelist, Ann Marie Smith, a volunteer at National Alliance on Mental Health, NAMI, told the participants how much NAMI had helped with her mental health experience. She said that the support groups in NAMI have assisted her in her times of need.
An open-ended Q&A lead to further information on where to find help and services for those experiencing mental health struggles.
ELAC’s Student Health Center can be found at http://bit.ly/elac-health-center.
The information for National Alliance for Health for San Gabriel Valley can be found at https://namisangabrielvalley.org and mental health resources can be found at http://bit.ly/sgv-mh-resources.
Suicide prevention hotline: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org