A revamped series of behavioral health learning sessions kicks off Wednesday with a discussion about racial trauma.
The McLean County Community Behavioral Health Forum, now in its fourth year, will shift from a one-day, in-person event to a virtual affair. There will be at least one session per month through April 2021. The first one is Wednesday, Nov. 25, focused on the intersection of trauma, mental health and racism. It’s led by presenter Gaynett Hoskins, who works for the county’s health department.
“It’s something I don’t think we have a lot of conversation about. So for us to have these conversations, and me being a person of color, but also understanding the importance of mental health and somebody validating and supporting you, it truly made sense for me to focus on this topic,” said Hoskins.
Mental health issues are stigmatized in the Black community, she said, and there are not enough counselors of color in the profession.
You can’t know a person’s history with racism—be it run-ins with institutional or work-related racism, or peer-to-peer episodes—without asking and listening, Hoskins said.
“It’s just allowing people to tell you what they need from you, and not believing that exactly what they need from you is what everyone needs from you. Every person of color is different, just like every white person is different,” Hoskins said.
The McLean County Community Behavioral Health Forum series will include many sessions focused on stigmatized populations, including the LGBTQIA+ community and male-specific stigma toward mental health, said Trisha Malott, the county’s behavioral health chief.
There also are a few COVID-related sessions, such as “Unhealthy Coping” on Jan. 5 and “Impact of COVID-19 on the Mental Health of Older Adults” on Feb. 16.
Malott said attendance at the in-person Behavioral Health Forum has grown each year, and organizers hope the new format will increase overall participation.
“We tried to offer sessions at different times of day, so that people can maybe do it before they start their workday, or over their lunch hour, or near the end of their day, while also only having one session per day. Ideally, we’re hoping we capture folks in ways that are more convenient for them,” Malott said. “We’re hoping a virtual platform meets the needs of people.”
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