Written by: Kendall Shelton, BIPOC and Latinx Outreach Program Specialist and Gianella Quinones, BIPOC and Latinx Outreach Program Director
“Just because no one else can heal or do your inner work for you doesn’t mean you can, should, or need to do it alone.”
– Lisa Olivera
The BIPOC & Latinx Outreach Program at Spartanburg Area Mental Health Center knows all about the importance of taking care of one’s mental health and understands that oftentimes, it’s not just a one-person job.
The mission of the BIPOC & Latinx Outreach Team is to raise mental health awareness in historically marginalized and underrepresented communities throughout Spartanburg County.
The topic of “mental health” is not an easy one to address, even in 2022; it comes with certain stigmas and negative attitudes attached.
This rings true particularly for impoverished and under-resourced communities and cognizance of this, is one of the things that spurred the genesis of the BIPOC & Latinx Outreach Program.
Since the Fall of 2020, the program has been intentional in its efforts towards raising awareness about and de-stigmatizing mental health.
So how do they do it?
By building connections, collaborating with communities, meeting the people where they are, and earning the trust of our communities and its members.
The BIPOC & Latinx Outreach Team realized that gaining community trust leads to having raw and honest conversations. Conversations, discussions, and sharing experiences help co-create safe spaces and allow one to express vulnerability without fear of judgment and/or shame.
Establishing these connections with our community members and having these honest conversations allows for certain stigmas to be broken down.
But it’s not a one and done type of thing – consistency is key.
A New Take on Mental Health and the Power of Being Heard
The BIPOC & Latinx Outreach Program is passionate about the work they are doing. Part of their approach on raising mental health awareness in Spartanburg County is by creating a fun and innovative way of raising awareness, which has turned their efforts more into a service of love rather than duty.
The program takes listening to our communities seriously; we believe there is power in sharing narratives, as stories are the oldest form of passing on both knowledge and human experience.
We also know that listening to others helps empower them. Other ways this program has helped raise mental health awareness includes support groups, community collaborations, attendance at community events, discussions, dancing videos, etc.
The program believes in meeting people where they are and being mindful of the barriers that exist that cause hesitancy in seeking mental health services.
Within the past year, the BIPOC & Latinx Outreach Program has had an online mental health awareness campaign released via social media featuring community members, a live-recorded flash mob in Daniel Morgan Square, and perhaps their most well known “Dance It Out” videos.
These videos take place in various areas in downtown Spartanburg and are recorded every Friday to promote mental health awareness. Some videos solely feature the BIPOC and Latinx outreach team, while others feature the team dancing alongside other community members like Councilwoman Meghan Smith and community members Brian Cohen and Lakesa Whitner.
Each video has captions that address different mental health related topics like self-care, toxic masculinity, mindfulness, etc.
Technology and social media play a huge and significant role in our world today, and its use has helped the outreach team reach other audiences and explore a new method of outreach.
The importance of virtual outreach, creating safe spaces in support groups, and showcasing residents of Spartanburg county in their videos is to make mental health struggles feel tangible and to make people feel heard.
Stigmas can be socially-influenced or self-perceived and arise out of a lack of understanding. They can have a significant impact on how one takes care of and values their mental health, and some people associate the term “mental health” with “mental health illness”.
We all have mental health, and we all at one point experience a mental health struggle and that does not make us weak or less than, it makes us human.