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Reset and Heal holds W-S’s first Black Mental Health Summit

Black Mental Summit

More than 200 Black people of all ages and from walks of life met at The Enterprise Conference and Event Center last Friday, to openly discuss something that impacts us all but is rarely discussed in the Black community: mental health.

Statistics show people of all cultures experience mental health conditions at about the same rate; however, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), only 39% of Black Americans receive mental health services compared to 52% for non-hispanic whites. To help change that narrative and in recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, Reset and Heal, a local mental health consulting firm, hosted Winston-Salem’s first Black Mental Health Summit (BMHS) on May 17.

When The Chronicle spoke with Alexia Mitchell, owner and founder of Reset and Heal, a few months ago, she mentioned that the Black Mental Health Summit (BMHS) was aimed at dismantling the stigma surrounding mental health, encouraging open dialogue, and connecting individuals with resources and support. “We haven’t given ourselves permission to not be OK … I felt like we needed a space where we feel seen and heard by people who look like us,” Mitchell said.

Speakers during the summit included Chief William Penn with the Winston-Salem Police Department (WSPD), Dr. Pamela Oliver, executive vice president of Novant Health and president of Novant Health Physician Network, and Shenell McClurkin Thompson, senior program officer of local impact at Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust.

There were also two panel discussions that featured nearly a dozen Black licensed mental health counselors, therapists, clinical psychologists, and others with experience working in the mental health field. The panel, “Unapologetically Black,” was moderated by Brandon Love. Panelists included Katina Little, Lamont Joe, Kamilah McKissick, Alison Harris Welcher, Keisha Horton, and Tim Pitman. 

The second panel,  “Mental Health is Wealth,” was moderated by Victoria Fleury and panelists were Tiffany Hall, Brock Grace, Shawn Perkins, Jazmyn Holland, Carmen Haskins, and Dr. Keisha Grayson Rogers. 

Although it was the lineup of speakers and resources that brought people in, it was the atmosphere that kept them engaged throughout the event. With DJ Diesel playing all the summer cookout favorites, the BMHS had the feel of a family reunion. There were also vendors and networking opportunities following each speaker and panel discussions that allowed time for reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. And when the DJ played the right song, dance a little. Leslie Gibson, who was there with her daughter, said she was really enjoying herself. “I didn’t really know what to expect because this is my first time coming to something like this, but it’s been wonderful,” she said. 

Others in attendance applauded Mitchell and her team for bringing in so many health professionals of color. “I’ve not seen this many Black mental health professionals, definitely not at one place,” she said. 

“I know mental health isn’t something we talk about openly in our community, but being around people who look like you and understand your experiences can make that a lot easier. ”

Mitchell, who is a native of Winston-Salem and a licensed clinical therapist-associate, said the idea for the summit was originally her husband’s, Hasani Mitchell. She said one morning while they were  getting ready for work he made the suggestion. After giving it some thought, Mitchell said she called Ri Thompson with Dancing Grass Studios, a local marketing agency, and started the ball rolling.

“I called Ri and told her, because if I put it out there it will hold me accountable,” Mitchell said. “When I told her, she said, let’s go, and it was up from there.” 

To wrap up the event, Mitchell thanked everyone for their support. “Thank you all for believing in me, believing in this vision for our community,” she said. 

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