Breaking the Stigma: African American Mental Health Symposium - Shifting the Narrative

Posted by Nicholas Postelli for College of Health and Human Services

Virtual Session Information:

This two-day virtual conference takes place on the Webex platform, and is hosted and brought to you by The Synergy Health Center , Valarie Cunningham, LMSW,  and WMU's College of Health and Human Services. Each day begins with a Keynote presentation, and attendees will then move into two pre-selected breakout sessions. The topics are outlined below and can be selected upon check-out. 

Continuing Education offered: 6 SW, 6 MCBAP, 6 Nursing CEUs

Day 1 Sessions | October 14, 8:30 a.m. - Noon

Keynote Presentation: 8:35 a.m. - 9:35 a.m. 

Psychological Evolution of the Black Male

Presented by: Andre Fields, Ph.D.

Session Synopsis:
Audience members will understand the birth and evolution of American racism, the impact(s) of American racism on the developing black male, and learn strategies for helping African American males overcome it.


Session 1: 9:45 a.m. - 10:45 a.m.


Track 1: What Happens When Our Kids See It? When Black Children Witness Racial Trauma!
Presented by: Regena F. Nelson, Ph.D.

Session Synopsis:
The session will focus on how caregiver and professionals support Black children who have experienced racial trauma through sharing information about effective intervention strategies and presenting success stories.


Track 2: Are We Safe? The Science Behind African American Stress Response
Presented by: David Thomas, MA, LPC

Session Synopsis:
The speaker will explore how racism as an experience in America impacts the African American stress response. Participants will see African American awareness viewed through a fundamental understanding of the autonomic nervous system. There will be a review of resiliency strategies that have been historically supportive and strategies that may prove helpful today.


Session 2: 10:50 a.m. - 11:50 a.m.

Track 1: Black Woman What’s Wrong With You? The Misunderstood Plight of the Black Woman
Presented by: Elishae Johnson, Ph.D., LPC & Valarie Cunningham, MSW, LMSW

Session Synopsis:
This session will cover the negative stereotypes and myths about the black women in American Culture. All while examining how the "passion and righteous indignation of a black woman is often misread as irrational anger, ill mannered, or ill-tempered used to silence and shame Black women who dare to challenge social inequalities, complain about their circumstances, or demand fair treatment. When taking a deeper look into the black women’s plight, participants will learn how the internalization of the Strong Black Woman (SBW) schema is associated with negative psychological outcomes for the Black Women. The goal of this session is to shift the negative narrative of how others read and interpret the actions of Black women.


Track 2: Not the Client Too? Mental Health Implications for African American Clinicians experiencing Microaggressions
Presented by: Charmeka Newton, Ph.D., LP & Tatyana Smith, BS

Session Synopsis:
Microaggression are often a statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group, such as a racial or ethnic minorities (Sue et al., 2007). These acts may have a detrimental impact on the therapeutic alliance and relationships with co-workers. During this presentation attendees will identify and be able to define what are microaggressions and learn steps they can take to mitigate them. Coping strategies to help those who experience these offenses will also be provided. Lastly, participants will learn how to improve their cultural awareness to help address discrimination and racism.


Day 2 Sessions | October 15, 8:30 a.m. - Noon

Keynote Presentation: 8:35 a.m. - 9:35 a.m. 

SOUL WEALTH: Inner Peace is Really Possible

Presented by: Dr. Vikki Johnson

Session Synopsis:
Too often people live based on external expectations instead of internal motivation, beliefs and core values. This session will explore the opportunities for and obstacles to wellness. It is possible to live a highly conscious, harmonious existence in the midst of chaos. Inner peace really is possible.


Session 3: 9:45 a.m. - 10:45 a.m.


Track 1: Navigating Spaces: Tips for Empowering Mental and Emotional Wellness for Black Queer and Gender Expansive Persons
Presented by: Angela Lewis, MS, LLPC & Maime Butler

Session Synopsis:
This session will include a description of the topic, definitions, and current statistics on mental health of Black Q/T/GNC people. We will then discuss guidelines for working with this intersectional population of people. We will provide context examples of navigating We also will discuss the ways therapy can be harmful in an effort to reduce bias and judgement as clinicians working with Black QTGNC people. We will also discuss the ways therapy can be harmful in effort to reduce bias and judgement in the room as clinicians working with Black QTGNC people.


Track 2: Racial Disparities: The Power of Advocacy
Presented by: Kevin Fischer

Session Synopsis:
This session provides an exploration into the effect racism has on people of color; the statistics and how stigma affects access to treatment and culturally competent care.


Session 4: 10:50 a.m. - 11:50 a.m.

Track 1: Beyond Code Switching? Bi-Culturalism
Presented by: Candy S. McCorkle, Ph.D.

Session Synopsis:
This session will explore the impact of the experience of a person of color learning to live in both their racial/ethnic culture of origin and the dominant White culture on a person of color’s sense of well-being and identity. The session will also engage in a discussion on the influence of White privilege on how people of color navigate a society not based on their cultural norms and values. So often the discussion of wellness and well-being excludes the significance of negotiating identity when existing in two cultures with competing norms and values. This experience can negatively impact a person’s well-being. Although this session is meant as an introduction to this topic it will include strategies for to promote a healthy means of coping with the impact of biculturalism on well-being.


Track 2: I Can’t Breathe! The Healing Breath of Trauma Informed Yoga & Meditation
Presented by: Kimberly Lee, BS

Session Synopsis:
How the practice of yoga (movement, breath & meditation) helps calm the nervous system, identify trauma stored in the body & identify patterns of behavior on and off the yoga mat.

Date: Thursday, October 14, 2021
Time: 8:30am to noon
$99.00 Per Participant
Purchase tickets
Contact: Lisa Brennan
Email for more information