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Champaign County Community Coalition hosts first Black Mental Health conference to dispel stigmas

Dr. Joycelyn Landrum-Brown led a discussion on how to manage grief and respond to that of others in a supportive manner. She said it is important to recognize that everyone’s journey with grief is unique.

The Champaign County Community Coalition hosted the first Black Mental Health and Wellness Conference at Parkland College in Champaign on Sept. 30.

The goal of the conference, according to the coalition’s website, is to provide awareness, information and solutions to people facing mental health issues and discuss the challenges of mental health in the Black community. 

Donna Tanner-Harold came up with the idea for the conference. Tanner-Harold is a retired Parkland College Faculty Counselor and created a parenting and life skills course for women in the Champaign County Jail.

About 50 people attended Dr. Joycelyn Landrum-Brown’s workshop on managing grief. Participants were encouraged to share advice on how others can support their loved ones throughout their healing journey. Stephanie Mosqueda/Illinois Student Newsroom

In her welcoming speech, Pamela Lau, Parkland College’s president, said Tanner-Harold started organizing and facilitating mental health workshops to help Black people in the community this year.

Lau said the workshops were a success — ultimately leading to the conference. 

“Many of you attended her spring workshops and said you needed more,” Lau said. “You needed more time to explore in greater depth practical strategies to pursue positive mental health and to find ways to restore yourselves.” 

About 200 people attended the day-long event. Before the workshops started, guests could learn about resources and programs from representatives at Carle Health, the Unit 4 School District and the Housing Authority of Champaign County

Participants had the opportunity to attend four out of eight different workshops throughout the day. Workshops informed participants on a myriad of mental-health-related topics, such as how to recognize racialized trauma, understand mental health, manage grief, build a healthy Black community and utilize community resources. 

Dr. Joycelyn Landrum-Brown is a co-chair of the Community Coalition’s Race Relations Community and Wisdom Leader for the C-U Trauma and Resilience Initiative

Brown led a workshop called “The Journey of Grief,” where she taught attendees how to manage their grief to be better able to support their loved ones.

Attendees at the Black Mental Health & Wellness Conference ate lunch in Parkland College’s cafeteria. Lunch was free for all guests. Photo Credit: Stephanie Mosqueda/Illinois Student Newsroom

Throughout the discussion, Brown emphasized the importance of recognizing that everyone’s journey with grief is different.

“If you are on a journey of grief and loss, do not let anybody try to put you on their path. What you need is what you need,” she said. “We all have different ways of regulating our fears and anxieties.” 

Throughout her presentation, Brown allowed participants to talk about their own experiences and ways in which they respond to grief.

Aviyah Washington, an assistant teacher at a daycare in Champaign, attended the conference. One of the workshops she attended was called “How to have Difficult Conversations about Mental Health.”

Washington said the seminar helped her understand her students’ emotions and will make her a better instructor.

“I think just having a better knowledge about how and why my kids react the way they do will help me steward them better and learn how to communicate with them better,” she said. 

Washington said she hopes the conference will make the Black community in Champaign-Urbana stronger.

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