Riley Mychal, program director of the Menninger Clinic. 

This Thursday, the Menninger Clinic and the Health Museum will host a virtual mental health information session with speaker Mychal Riley and moderator Dr. Jon Stevens, Menninger’s vice president of growth and innovation. The session is part of the overarching “Parents, Let’s Talk About Mental Health” series to spread awareness and access to help during Minority Mental Health Month.

The session will begin with a 20-to-25-minute presentation by Riley, who will cover a range of issues: how to address high-profile events in the media that BIPOC communities have faced, from the pandemic to George Floyd; the need for de-stigmatization of mental health in BIPOC communities; and how to encourage children to speak openly about mental health.

Although mental health in BIPOC communities is not inherently different from a medical perspective, it is uniquely impacted by their identity in American society, Riley tells Houstonia.

“For instance, a person of color may begin to feel depressed or anxious because they feel isolated from a community,” he says. If that person then receives a message—either real or perceived—from their communities that those feeling make them weak, then their depression and feelings of isolation may become exacerbated.

“Similarly,” he continues, “when searching for a therapist, if they cannot find a therapist they believe understands the impact of these cultural stressors on their mental health, they may find it hard to utilize or trust the support of the therapist. In contrast, there are times when the mental health concerns may be a direct result of an impact from their identity such as being the survivor of trauma related to their identity.”

Ultimately, this lack of understanding can lead to distrust in healthcare providers and support, making it much more difficult to access help, especially for children. Parents play an important role in combatting this.

“Parents are the role models for how to manage emotions and mental health, the primary support when a child is struggling, and the most likely to be able to identify if there is a concern,” says Riley. “This isn’t to say that parents need to learn to become therapists. Some of the best strategies to promote mental wellness are likely things that parents already know and implement. The key will be intentionally connecting these strategies to mental wellness and surveying for disruptions to mental health.”

This is what “Parents, Let’s Talk About Mental Health” is hoping to do.

Riley says his goal is to help more parents feel comfortable talking about mental health with their children.

“I also hope parents are able to begin thinking about how various aspects of their identity may be impacting them and their children’s mental wellness,” he says.

The presentation will then be followed by a Q&A and discussion session. Attendees can submit questions in advance or ask them during the live Q&A portion of the webinar.

Noon to 1 p.m. Thurs, July 22, noon to 1 p.m. Register here.

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