Raising Awareness and Bridging the Gaps of Mental Health

African American mother and kid holding each other

African American Mental Health and Wellness (AMEN) team is collaborating with KAZI FM 88.7 in producing a radio series to highlight the importance of addressing mental health and physical wellness in the African American community. The monthly series will feature AMEN team members from the School of Nursing, leaders from Mt. Zion Baptist and Rehoboth Baptist churches, and community organizations who provide mental health resources and support in Travis County.


Raising Awareness and Bridging the Gaps of Mental Health

October 13, 2021 Podcast: 
October 27, 2021 Podcast: 

Co-moderators Shannon W. Jones and Jacki Hecht interviewed Fabian Wood Sr., founder and CEO of the D. Wood Foundation on October 13th, 2021. Their discussion focused on raising awareness about suicide, and what can be done to support those in need and save lives. The conversation also addressed stigma and misconceptions that surround mental health in the Black community. Fabian Wood Sr. explains that the D. Wood Foundation was inspired by his late mother, Deandrea Woods, who passed from suicide over a decade ago at the young age of 38. The organization began in 2017 and aims to “bring awareness to suicide prevention to ethnic minorities.” Wood notes that a common risk factor for suicide is social isolation. The physical distancing recommendations brought on by COVID has exacerbated this, leaving those struggling with thoughts of suicide shut off from loved ones who may have offered “happiness, fulfillment, and positivity” within their lives.

Wood urges everyone to break the stigma of talking about mental health and suicide within the Black community. He acknowledges that these conversations are happening, but believes the bigger issue is mobilizing the Black community to offer caring and relatable responses to one another. You’re Not Alone (YNA) Fellowship strives to build a network of cultural support for minority communities. This fellowship sheds light on Wood’s three steps to mental wellness, which include: engagement, healing, and advocacy. Wood adds that if you or a loved one are in mental distress and in need of help, please visit the Austin Area African American Behavioral Health Network for additional resource or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Wood also urges listeners to stay connected with loved ones during these difficult times and to show empathy by actively listening.

The discussion continued on October 27th as Jacki Hecht and Shannon Jones spoke with Dr. Quevarra Moten, Deputy Executive Director at National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Central Texas. Dr. Moten believes that it is important for faith communities to have these difficult, but necessary conversations about mental health. It is crucial to create these spaces so people “feel courage or have the opportunity” to establish bridges within the community. Moten explains that changing the conversation about mental health “begins with information.” She also notes that Bridges to Hope trains faith leaders “to learn about resources that can help change the conversation” within the faith community. Moten reminds listeners that you can have strong faith, and still get help by identifying the source of the issue and the most appropriate and qualified providers from whom to seek help. Moten adds that faith leaders can help community members by establishing a safer and more comfortable environment to talk openly and honestly.

NAMI Central Texas’ Bridges to Hope training provides resources to those in need by first nourishing their mental health and dispelling common myths. Then, participating individuals are provided with information regarding signs and symptoms, what to look for, how to navigate through resources, and how to build a bridge of hope. Furthermore, Moten encourages individuals outside of faith communities to explore the various trainings and resources at NAMI so that they, too, can “build a bridge of hope” within their own communities. For more information visit NAMI Central Texas or call: 512-420-9810.

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Nov. 23, 2021