Mental Health Writing/Advocacy

Reading Lists
I curate a weekly list of mental and emotional wellness resources, stories, interviews, events, articles, and videos for The Extraordinary Negroes. If you have a mental wellness-related piece of content or event I should know about, please send it my way.



Events and such

UP NEXT:

To close out Mental Health Awareness Month, I wanted to host a casual event that brought people together to talk about feelings and struggles and therapy and healing all that fun stuff in an engaging, accessible, comfortable way. With #GetSomeJoy, I aim to encourage open dialogue about mental and emotional challenges, provide information and resources, entertain, and inspire. Hope to see you there. Get more information here. Or:

Go straight to the golden tickets.


PAST EVENTS AND SUCH:

In April 2017, I became a certified Mental Health First Aid Instructor, thanks to the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The course teaches you "how to help someone developing mental health problems or experiencing a mental health crisis." You'll learn how to start difficult conversations, how to help if someone is having suicidal thoughts, and how to be the first line of defense and provide comfort/guidance, NOT how to diagnose, treat, and "fix" people. Whether you take the course, or go on to become an instructor, it's a very comprehensive, useful training. I highly recommend this program for everyone, really. Whether you work in a public setting, work in a church, school, human resources dept, deli, airport, hospital, or barber shop, there's something good here for you. To learn more about the course, go here.





Coinciding with Mental Health Awareness Month, I held my fourth Colored Boy and Friends event, this time at the Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center in Washington Heights. I invited multimedia journalist Bené Viera; filmmaker, playwright, and co-founder of The Each-Other Project Donja Love; and audio producer, founder of Bondfire Radio and co-host of TK in The AM, Keisha Dutes to talk with me about their awesome work, current projects, and their mental health journeys (plus its effect on their work, and vice versa). Filmmaker, writer, and world traveler Darnell Lamont Walker joined me for a cathartic rant segment called "Here's What The Fuck I Think." Sir Bruce "Blue" Rivera provided ze adult beverages. Mingling, music, merriment, and emotions. Good times. Full event recap here.

And:
Resisting Limitations: AfroLatin@s and Radical Identity (Schomburg Center, NYC)
Colored Boy and Friends: Summer Edition (Bondfire Radio Audio Festival)
Colored Boy and Friends: Spring Edition (Nola Darling, NYC)
Colored Boy and Friends (Bar None, NYC)

In the spring of 2016, I attended Mental Health First Aid Training, led by two awesome instructors at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The one-day course taught us about how to identify various mental health issues and disorders (anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, suicidal ideations, etc.), how to engage with someone experiencing mental or emotional issues, and how to guide them to care or treatment. I learned so much useful stuff there, and was able to connect with some awesome folks doing awesome work. 



In the spring of 2016, I also participated in #LupusChat on Twitter, sharing my perspective on maintaining mental health while living with lupus.


I was a speaker and facilitator at Mental Stimulation, a roundtable organized by the Haitian American Caucus to engage young people in open, reaffirming conversations about mental and emotional challenges.





Special guest in a Twitter chat about depression and suicide.


WRITING

"Self-Care, Clarity, and Sunshine: On Taking My Own Advice" (EBONY)
At home, I hadn’t been able to relax enough to pursue any personal, exploratory writing that wasn’t tied to a check or “work” in any serious way. Here these few days, there’s no endless hustle or slothlike crowds to drive up my pressure. No appointments, packed and musty trains, or rat bastard rheumatologists (who uses mucho omission and a one-sized-fits-all approach to prescribing life-ruining lupus medications) to harass my spirit. I’ve been writing like a motherfucker out here.

And breathing. And eating.

"On depression: to anyone else living in a fog" (Gawker)
Once upon a time, I ran from tears, because that's what being resilient meant to me: not crying. I was the dude who bounced back quickly—even from a lupus diagnosis— and without too much bruising. 
After months of crying about wanting to feel as powerful as everyone thought I was, a sob-filled call home that July afternoon was the push I needed to quit lying to myself about being able to change the/my world alone and get the fuck out of Panama.
"If need to get out of here," I told my parents. I left two weeks later. 
It saved my life.

"Hey, Therapy" (Abernathy Magazine)
One day, while cleaning up my room, I felt it. In the back of my throat. That familiar pang of terror and bewilderment and grief and confusion that means that shit is not okay. I fought it off with deep breaths and minutes spent staring at the ceiling. It grew while folding jeans and arranging tank tops, but as I tried to force it back down, that pang in my throat became a chokehold. I set the broom and dustpan down. I rocked from side to side, gripping, twisting and flinging my hands. I fought those tears. I lost.
I was heavy. I felt directionless, for the first time ever. I felt unable to DO the way Alex DOES. 
And then, I met you, Therapy. 
The day I met you, in my eagerness, I uncorked and rambled for an hour, terrified and thrilled and proud to be in your presence. I admitted things I had never said to anyone. I verbalized things I had never verbalized to my self. After that first session, I texted my sisterfriend Leneé, “I did it,” and sobbed violently the whole ride home, beaming, relieved. 
It hasn’t been easy, this dance we’re doing here on the 22nd of Laboriousness. You try me in ways that would spell banishment for any other thorn in my side, but you? You’re different. To be frank, you breakdance on my motherfucking nerves and stir up all kinds of unpretty memories. And yet, I moonwalk back to you week after week for more scab picking and another taste of delicious emotional freedom.

"What A Difference A Year Makes: On Battling And Beating Depression" (Very Smart Brothas)
This was the fun part of adjusting to antidepressants that feels like log rolling through the mud. Nothing mattered. This time last year, leading up to Thanksgiving, I spent most of my days under the covers, powering through The Wire, mumbling through interactions with my family, masturbating and aggressively napping. The first few weeks of my courtship with Zoloft was made up of vicious jaw clenching, fidgeting and king-sized anxiety. Being tightly wound wasn’t new. It’s nearly impossible for me to relax, but during that first month, my anxiety hit puberty and spiked at the faintest whiff of impending strife or frustration. Occasionally, while driving, I’d have to pull off the road and just breathe. I spent weeks wrapped up in trying to determine how much of the fuckedupness and zombiehood was drug-related and how much was due to my personal wretchitude. 
It fucking sucked.
"Dear 20-Somethings, Stop Chasing Perfection!" (The Root)
Clock out when necessary. Contending with family, work and melanin maintenance can be spiritually taxing, so carving out downtime to recharge is essential. Turning off email and social media notifications on your phone does wonders. Meditate. Take a solo vocation to Brazil. Even St. Damita Jo Jackson takes a break from inspiring R&B wishes and superstar dreams to play UNO with LaToya on occasion.

"Dancing The Blues Away: How Ballet Became My Therapy" (Very Smart Brothas)
Even when I’m spiraling and stewing in the anxiety, I can (usually) scrape it together enough to jump into those tights, get pon the train and get my tondu, my port de bras, and my pas de bourree on. Each class is a battle against rigidity and requires me to push and trust myself, to focus 100 percent of my brainpower not on a deadline, luchini, self-loathing, anxiety, or problems real or self-perceived, but on getting stronger, being more precise and more confident in my movement, dancing bigger and more gracefully, listening to my body, and thriving rather than log-rolling through the mud with the nothingness. I shall not pretend that some of this fervor isn’t fueled by a desire to return to the days of Majestic Hindparts glory. 
But most importantly, for a few hours a week, I feel light and unburdened. No anxiety. No pressure to dazzle with a snatched body and gig-ready technique or impress anyone but myself and Saint Damita Jo Jackson.
View the rest of my writing portfolio here.

WORKSHOPS

That time I taught my Literary Therapy: Writing (For) Your Life workshop for Columbia University's Society of African Health Initiatives.



Aaaand it's a wrap for my workshop, Literary Therapy: Writing (for) Your Life, with the Society of African Health Initiatives at @columbia University. Had a lovely time working with these wonderful women who were gracious enough to be open, vulnerable, and receptive with me today. We wrote and talked about mental health, self-care, self-love, healing, trauma, pain, and all that jazz, and these ladies went. all. the. way. there. with. me and I'm so thankful for their willingness to talk about all the unpretty stuff with me. I would love to come do a workshop situation at your school, library, office, or elsewhere. Inbox me, text me, call me, or hit me via thecoloredboy.com (Peep the Workshops tab) and let's talk about it. Can't wait to do this again. #Kleenex #MentalHealth #SelfCare #MinorityMentalHealth
A post shared by alexander hardy 🇵🇦 (@coloredboy) on







"Literary Therapy: Writing (For) Your Life"
This workshop explores mental health, self-love, trauma, and self-care through writing, selected readings, fellowship, and group discussion. The session aims to underscore the value and effectiveness of writing and creative expression in healing and catharsis.

During "Literary Therapy: Writing (For) Your Life," we’ll relax (with snacks) in a secluded, intimate setting as we open those closets and mine our lives for rich, relevant writing material. In a safe, calming and encouraging environment, we will write about our mental health journeys, self-care, self-love, self-hate, and all that wonderful jazz that stands between us and Understanding. You will flex your creative muscle while writing your way through the inspiring, the life-changing and the tragic alongside a dynamic group of similarly openminded, clarity-seeking folks.

This workshop is intended for beginning and seasoned writers alike who want to strengthen their creative voice and answer difficult personal questions through introspective writing. This workshop is also suitable for mental health professionals, scholars, and administrators seeking new methods of clarifying and exploring personal narratives with clients, patients or students. Previously, I have lead this workshop at Adler University in Chicago for students and administrators in the clinical mental health graduate program, and for groups that included college professors, social workers, and relationship counselors.

So far, I've taught this workshop for grad students and administrators in Adler University's clinical mental health graduate program, members of Columbia University's Society of African Health Initiatives, and with private groups in Maryland, New York, and Los Angeles.

View the rest of my workshop situations riiiight here. If interested in hosting a workshop or mental health-related event in your school or organization, contact me here.


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