Saturday May 22, 2021 Are You Okay, Inc. in conjunction with Charitable Giving Hearts hosted their 2nd Annual Safe Zone open forum surrounding the topic of Mental Health Awareness. This was in accordance with May being Mental Health Awareness Month. This event was open to the public to allow people from all walks of life to have a “Safe Zone” to discuss, vent, and be enlightened on the mental health issues that we or someone we might know is or have faced. According to the American Psychiatric Association “Mental illness is a multitude of health conditions involving changes in emotions, thinking, and behaviors, which are associated with distress and/or functioning in social, work or family activities.” (www.psychiatry.org). In the United States “over 16% of those who identify as Black reported having a mental illness in the past year, which equates to a little over seven million people who have suffered from this form of illness (www.mhnational.org).” This program also brought awareness to the disparity of mental illness in the Caribbean culture. The people from a Caribbean background who shared their stories stated that mental illness is something that is rarely acknowledged and almost always disregarded. The whole experience of the “Safe Zone” was filled with testimonials, questions, games, and prizes, while photographer MaxoKeyz captured every heart-felt moment with his lens. Ending the event and evening with DJ Lexxma playing the latest tunes that you just couldn’t help but dance to.
The program commenced with a series of questions posed to panelist’s Marilyn N., Natacha A., Maxi D., & Fougere J. For each question that was asked, the responses given by each panelist, brought a wave of emotions to everyone in the room, ranging from anger and disappointment to tear shedding and pure sadness. After all the questions were asked, replied with knowledge, intertwined with life experiences, and the added rollercoaster of emotions came to an end, everyone in the room became empathetic to the things that some of the panelist had to experience. Thereafter, was the Step into Your Truth session. This session was open for any and all to step into their truth and release by verbalizing what it is that has been a bother to them for such a long time, to acknowledge that they have a happy place to retreat to, and ways to overcome those demons that haunt them inside.
During the intermission, there was food served by various vendors for everyone to enjoy, which was ohhh so delicusioso (that’s delicious) along with a performance by We Fight To Tell Stories, which is a youth group that use dance as a way of telling their story. While everyone was eating and mingling, the hosts of the event Cheryl & Gladys spoke on the purpose of their event and why it is helpful to recognize Mental Illness in others; As well as, the steps that one can take to help or where to direct someone to find resources that can better guide them to and provide them with the assistance that they need. Followed was the presentation of the sponsors, vendors, businesses, and entrepreneurs, ending with questionnaire games and prizes. Once the event ended, the DJ jumped right back in with the tunes, while the people networked, enjoying the moment, and danced the evening away.
All it takes is to ask someone “Are you Okay?” You never know what wonders that question alone can do for someone who is down and out, or in need of a listening ear. Please be sure to follow and subscribe to Are You Okay, Inc. today to stay updated on future events and forums at www.areyouokayinc.com on Facebook #AreYouOkay , Instagram @are_you_okayyyyyy Charitable Giving Hearts. See you at the next Are You Oaky, Inc. event signing off Mentally Aware with a Flamboyant Farewell Standing in my Truth.
Parekh, Ranna. M.D., M.P.H. What is Mental Illness? American Psychiatric Association © August 2018, Washington, D.C. www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/what-is-mental-illness
Black and African American Communities and Mental Health Table. Mental Health America ©2021. Black and African American Communities and Mental Health | Mental Health America (mhanational.org)