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Minority Mental Health Month is about building community | News, Sports, Jobs

For Minority Mental Health Month, listed below are a number of tales of individuals breaking down stigmas and building community.

• • •

Mary Kirkendoll is all about initiating significant conversations.

That’s how she grew to become concerned within the upcoming Minority Mental Health Awareness Picnic within the Park. The occasion will likely be from 6 to eight p.m. Wednesday, July 27, at South Park. It is free and open to the general public.

“It’s all about elevating and celebrating BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) talent and voices in the community,” Kirkendoll mentioned.

Kirkendoll, who works as Douglas County’s community navigator, grew up in Long Beach, Calif. Her mom, who was white, was an inner-city schoolteacher. Kirkendoll’s father, who is Japanese, hasn’t been concerned in her life since she was a child.

Kirkendoll’s mom had a protracted historical past of psychological sickness, however wasn’t recognized till later in life, when it was found that she had bipolar dysfunction and schizophrenia.

“My interest in mental health really stems from me taking care of my mom growing up. That was a lot for a child,” Kirkendoll mentioned. “We dealt with so many mental health issues. I saw how debilitating her illness was.”

When Kirkendoll was engaged on her doctorate on the University of Kansas, her mother, who was again in California, was admitted to a psychological establishment, however Kirkendoll didn’t know what had occurred.

“I didn’t know where she was for three weeks; I thought she was dead,” Kirkendoll mentioned. “From that moment on, I decided to take care of her.”

Kirkendoll introduced her mother, who had been recognized with Alzheimer’s, to Kansas and have become her caregiver. Her mother continues to be her inspiration.

“Taking care of my mom has opened a window to do this work, which is really beautiful,” Kirkendoll mentioned.

• • •

Randy Vidales was round 8 or 9 when he remembers first experiencing social anxiousness. The situation continued all through his college years. To cope, he turned inward.

“I was very quiet and withdrawn,” he mentioned. “Family members would chastise me for that. I couldn’t tell them that I was uncomfortable in social settings.”

Vidales, a first-generation Latino American, grew up in each Kansas and Mexico.

“Mental health is still a huge stigma in the Latino community,” Vidales mentioned. “Because of that and because of cultural traditions, growing up I didn’t feel like I had much of a voice.”

Mental well being wasn’t one thing his household talked about.

“I would be told that it was all in my head or in my imagination,” Vidales mentioned.

During his second 12 months as a pupil on the University of Kansas, Vidales determined to hunt assist. He reached out to a fellow pupil who was a psychology main. She was additionally Hispanic American.

“That made it much more comfortable to know that she was from the same background,” Vidales mentioned. “She could relate and understand where I was coming from.”

The good friend directed him to well being companies at KU, the place he obtained a proper prognosis. Besides social anxiousness, he was recognized with consideration deficit dysfunction.

Since 2018, Vidales has been a member of Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center’s supportive housing workforce. He shares his personal experiences when working with purchasers and continues to work on his personal psychological well being.

“It’s been a long journey, a journey that I firmly believe there is no end to,” he mentioned. “But at the same time, I realize that it’s more about the journey, about the progress that I’ve made.”

• • •

Demetrius “Dee” Kemp is somebody who’s dedicated to serving to others, but it surely took somebody similar to him to tug him out of the darkest time of his life.

Kemp misplaced his two favourite individuals within the span of about two months. His mom died on Nov. 30, 2020. About two months later, his sister died.

“Man, that about killed me,” Kemp mentioned. “I have lost people before but losing the two most important women in my life, back-to-back. My mom and my sister were like my best friends.”

Kemp, who lives in Lawrence, had returned to Alabama for his sister’s funeral and was so down he didn’t suppose he might come again to Kansas. A good friend of Kemp’s informed him about a niece, Eden, who was 5 on the time. Eden didn’t desire a social gathering or presents for her birthday; she wished to do a meals drive for homeless households in Emporia the place she lives.

“I thought if this little girl can do that, I need to get back; I need to go help her,” Kemp mentioned. “I got my friends together and I said, ‘I know this isn’t in Lawrence, but this girl needs our help, so let’s help her.’ We raised enough food for about 30 families.”

Kemp, who is Black, mentioned that when he was rising up, feelings and psychological well being weren’t one thing that individuals talked about.

“People used to say Black people don’t go crazy,” Kemp mentioned. “I knew people who had to have a mental illness, but it was just never talked about.”

When Kemp went to Emporia to assist Eden, he informed her mother and father, “I’ve never met your daughter, but she reached down and pulled me back. I was done, I had given up. That little girl, man, she pulled me out.”

• • •

Family and community are essential in Native tribes.

At the University of Kansas, Melissa Peterson, in her position as director of tribal relations, serves as form of an prolonged household for Native college students. She works carefully with Lori Hasselman, Native American pupil success coordinator.

“Our Native students are used to family and community, so when they come to college, we become that extended family,” Peterson mentioned. “Lori calls it Auntie Love. You hear that often in Native communities.”

Last 12 months was Peterson’s first as tribal relations director — a brand new place at KU. She really got here to Lawrence to educate volleyball at Haskell Indian Nations University.

Peterson described her position at KU as “really a holistic type of support system, and that includes being good partners with our tribes and building student development through learning about our local tribes.”

Peterson was a part of a panel dialogue for Mental Health Month in May that was a collaboration between Haskell and Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center.

“There’s so much to unpack about Native people and the history we have endured, and we’re still dealing with these issues. Here in Lawrence, we like to think of ourselves as being more open minded, and we are, but it wasn’t very many years ago that Native people couldn’t go past 19th Street,” Peterson mentioned.

Peterson was born and raised within the Navajo Nation in Arizona. She mentioned psychological well being wasn’t one thing that was mentioned. But she sees issues altering. The youthful Indigenous era is speaking extra overtly about their psychological well being, she mentioned.

“My first year in this new position was spent educating others about Native people. We may not talk about mental health specifically,” Peterson mentioned. “But I do try to create events where people can come together in community. Because mental health is best supported when we understand each other and build community with each other.”

— Jeff Burkhead is communications director at Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center.

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