Nearly 20% of Americans are Experiencing a Mental Illness
The Cleveland Public Library kicked off its No Ceiling summer education and event series for young professionals on Friday, May 27. Taking place inside the Cleveland Public Library due to rain, panelists and guests brought light and energy to the much-needed conversation about mental health. The space was adorned with neon colors, filled with 90s music and decor to welcome the target audience–young professionals–who don’t currently have many outlets and resources for managing mental health.
Gelise Thomas, Assistant Director of Strategic DEI & Health Disparities at Case Western Reserve University, Clinical and Translational Science Collaborative, served as moderator for the discussion. Topics explored include: understanding the relationship between physical health and mental health, mental health for individuals, relational (e.g., partner to partner, parents and children), how social media impacts mental health, and what we all can do to prioritize our own mental health and support those around us as we navigate pandemic conditions and beyond.
The esteemed panel included: Archie Green, Founder and CEO of Peel Dem Layers Back, Courtney Hauser, Licensed Mental Health Counselor, LPC, and author of From Victim to Survivor, and Molly McVoy, MD, Assistant Professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and Program Director, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center.
Green shared his story about how his own journey navigating and managing mental health and how it inspired the creation of his nonprofit organization, Peel Dem Layers Back, that educates, empowers, and equips Black men and boys with essential tools necessary to live a mentally health life through healing, hangouts, and cultural artistic expression, while representing hip-hop culture. When asked how he defined mental health, he emphasized the “power of community” and how other people can help create a safe space for sharing concerns and resources. Green piloted this concept with Theodore Roosevelt High School in Kent, Ohio, through a 10-week comprehensive mental health awareness workshop.
Hauser was also inspired to practice in the mental health space by personal experiences with physical and sexual abuse, domestic violence, and family dysfunction. She focuses on providing support to women. Hauser asked the audience, “Have you ever had a good ugly cry?” and was met with communal laughter. She went on to talk about the importance of releasing emotions and the catharsis that follows.
Dr. McVoy provided perspective on warning signs that parents should look for in children. She painted a picture of the juxtaposition between years past where parents were most concerned about drug use and teenage pregnancy (things that are done in person) versus how the pandemic has pushed most people online and deep in social media–acknowledging how the virtual world poses its own influence on child and adolescent behavior. Dr. McVoy recommended that families “[...] sleep without their mobile phone in the room and take scheduled breaks [from technology and social media]” to avert the potential negative impact of technology and social media use on mental health. She is currently researching connections in the brain as they relate to depression in adolescence measured by qEEG technology via the ENGINE study.
The event was complete with two live performances by Green and closed with announcements about upcoming events in the series on a variety of topics, including: the LGBTQ+ community, entrepreneurship, technology, and LatinX heritage.