‘Find Your Words – Ask for Help!’
The recent ‘KJLH Women’s Health Expo' introduces ‘Mindful Beauty,’ a new depression-reduction program for women residing in South Los Angeles that Kaiser Permanente helps support.
Despite the prevalence of depression and anxiety disorders, the stigma of mental health conditions can prevent people from reaching out and getting the help they need, even from their own families. This is especially true for many African American women. While long known for their perseverance against all odds, many feel they are expected to be strong at all costs – regardless of the risk to their mental and physical health.
Actress and Black BeautyShop Health Foundation Ambassador Sheryl Lee Ralph recently encouraged participants in a packed breakout session she moderated on depression in women in Long Beach, to consider a different approach.
Referencing the song “Bag Lady” by Erykah Badu, Lee Ralph emphasized to the session’s mostly black women audience at the 19th annual “KJLH Women’s Health Expo: The Power of Self-Care”: “You need to put those burdens down! Put those bags down! We’ve been carrying around generations of pain! And we are acting like it’s all right – and it is not all right!”
“There’s nothing wrong with saying, ‘Let me stay down here a minute and get grounded, so I can get strong to carry on,’” Lee Ralph continued. “Find your words – ask for help!”
During the session sponsored by the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science and BBSHF, Lee Ralph and the panelists tackled other various mental health issues in black communities. They shared historical perspectives, personal experiences, self-care tips, and local mental health resources to help promote health and healing.
Improving mental health and equity
They also introduced Mindful Beauty, an innovative program that will launch in June to help improve mental health and equity in South Los Angeles. Spearheaded by CDU, the program is training African American hairstylists at selected beauty shops to spot signs of depression in their clients and refer them to local treatment and support services as appropriate.
“Beauty shops have long served as neighborhood hubs where customers feel comfortable sharing their personal stories. The university saw this project as an opportunity to help connect black women suffering from depression with the support they need to improve their health and well-being.”
-- Cynthia Davis, assistant professor, Charles R. Drew University
The project is a partnership with CDU, BBSHF, and California Black Women’s Health Project. Kaiser Permanente Southern California helped kick-start the project with a 2-year, $80,000 grant and is providing program technical assistance.
“This program will also help develop much-needed baseline data to better understand the relationship between black women and depression to help improve diagnosis, treatment, and health outcomes,” said Janae Oliver, community health manager, Kaiser Permanente South Bay Medical Center.
Sonya Young Aadam, chief executive officer, California Black Women’s Health Project, encouraged the audience to seek out Sister Circles as another means of emotional support. This internationally recognized model of engagement, which also is used to conduct the Mindful Beauty trainings, brings women together in a safe environment where they can express, learn, and heal together.
“The work in these Sister Circles is often a precursor to traditional therapy, and we teach how to navigate the mental health systems,” Aadam said.
“No issue is too small to ask for support,” Joi Madison, a PsyD candidate in marriage and family counseling, advised the group. “And know that whatever you’re going through doesn’t define you.”
One of the experiences Margo Wade LaDrew, executive director, BBSHF, shared with the audience was how she adopted an affirmation to help her overcome negative messages she internalized from childhood: “If I weren’t me, I’d want to be my friend!”
Other self-care recommendations included:
- Setting personal boundaries (e.g., saying no to toxic situations and people)
- Eating healthy and doing regular physical activity
- Developing strong social connections
- Finding healthy ways to de-stress
“Self-care doesn’t have to be a spa day or shopping – sometimes it’s just taking a step back, taking a breath, or choosing to rest,” Lee Ralph said.
Kaiser Permanente is a long-time sponsor of the "KJLH Women’s Health Expo."
Check out these short videos for more comments from Sheryl Lee Ralph, as well as Kiaundra Jackson, a licensed marriage and family therapist in the greater Los Angeles area, who attended the Mindful Beauty breakout session: