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Written By Rhonda L. Ayodele Terry

Harlem Hospital Center and The JTH Foundation proudly presented the 2015 Men’s Mind, Body & Spirit Men’s Health & Wellness Conference and Health Fair on Saturday, June 13th.  This was a multi-faceted indoor/outdoor conference comprised of an extensive indoor symposium with panels for discussion, video and award presentations, workshops, poetry, music and dance.   Sidewalk festivities included visual artists, health information vendors, raffle drawings, African drumming and even free stress relief treatments for anyone in the community who wished to participate.

Hosts and facilitators of this main event, Squeaky Moore and Kenneth Todd “KT” Nelson, both  actors, filmmakers and directors, have innovatively collaborated this initiative to show how artists can come together to express their love of their craft in supporting a worthy cause of health and wellness -  mind, body and soul – particularly in the African-American community.   

As a whole, some of the main health issues within the African-American community are: hypertension, heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes.  Of the health issues mentioned, the concern about the increasing percentage of diabetes cases (diagnosed and undiagnosed) in the African American community was alarming.  The solutions suggested in preventing diabetes is to exercise more, to consume more vegetables, drink water and obviously to eat less processed sugar in foods.  Prevention can be as simple as walking instead of driving or climbing stairs rather than taking an elevator.  The key is to recharge and rejuvenate the body and to get the endorphins to make your mind and body more productive.

Surprisingly, mental health is now gaining more recognition and the conference forum mainly focused on not only treatment, but the factors that can jeopardize it. By 2020, depression will be the 2nd leading cause of disability behind heart failure and other related heart ailments.    

Terrie M. Williams, Dr. Jeffrey Gardere, Dr. Zafar Sharif, Jan Summers and Karl Griggs were all guest panelists that offered a wealth of information on depression.  It was even noted that oftentimes dealing with stress can be misdiagnosed as depression.  People who are depressed do not get the proper diagnosis and others may think depressed people are simply going through a stressful situation.  Either way, the source of this condition should not to be overlooked.

 During the panel discussion, Dr. Jeffrey Gardere, also known as “America’s Psychologist”, suggested that there are many cases wherein African Americans may feel that the challenges dealt with in life are “our lot in life,” which can lead to an inability to deal with depression in a timely and proper fashion.   

Terrie M. Williams, best-selling author of “Black Pain: It Only Looks Like We’re Not Hurting” and known survivor and victor over dealing with depression throughout the years, brought to everyone’s attention that when encountering a person who has committed violent acts, that person may have suffered with depression.  The question usually asked is “What is wrong with that person?”  When the question should be, “What happened to you?”  We must address the initial cause of the condition before prescribing treatment and recognize that sometimes the cause can occur as early as adolescence.

Business Advisor & Inspirational Speaker, Karl Allen Griggs, has had firsthand experience with abuse as a youth – both within and outside of the family unit.  As a result, he decided to turn his trauma into a triumph and help other youths across the country.  The inspirational tell-all book, “Shattered Mirrors” has the potential to touch and encourage many to stay strong and not be afraid to reach out.  African Americans do not have to live with untreated depression because, contrary to what many sufferers believe, they are not alone.  Funding for professional treatment and support are readily available in some health care facilities, but a proper diagnosis must be made since “everyone is dealing with something…and getting treated doesn’t make you weak or less than,” informed Dr. Gardere.

Dr. Keneca Boyce, Founder of Multiple Avenue to Success, stated, “The need for services is abundant. We are all subjected to issues and stressors that can lead to mental illness, but when you think about the make-up of our society today and how everything is driven by media and social media, it’s much more abundant as it relates to the degree in which we’re all being impacted and affected by social issues and more importantly by trauma.  We have to be mindful how we are socializing and conditioning the minds of our young men as it relates to stifling their emotions, pain and concerns.  It is essential that you not just survive, but that you thrive!”

A major participating outdoor vendor, The Noble Touch, offered free stress relief sessions.  Human Potential Engineer and founder of The Noble Touch, Jeffrey V. Noble, humbly and almost hesitantly took credit for this movement and stated, “It’s not about me and receiving credit.  It’s all about them (his practitioner students) and what they do for other people.”  Four year student, Yolanda McBride, stated, “It was a way for me and my fellow healers to insure that [they] were whole.  It’s been a rewarding and amazing experience and journey working with people in my community who can actually be cured through energy work and how energy work can compliment traditional medicine.”

The event ended with everyone dancing to the popular song, “Happy.”  It was indeed a joyful Journey to Healing!

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