Hello, everybody. Thank you for joining us on clinically yours, Lincoln Prairie where we discuss a variety of mental health issues that affect children and adolescents. I’m your host, Divvya Mirani, happy February. It is Black history month and this year’s theme happens to be black health and wellness. So for today’s episode, I am sitting down with Meeko Reddick our inpatient group therapist here at Lincoln prairie and we will be illuminating some challenges that black children might face in regards to mental health.

Clinically Yours- Episode #3: Illuminating Mental Health Barriers in the African American Community

Hosted by Divvya Mirani, Clinically Yours, is a podcast that serves as a mental health resource for the community. Tune in twice a month with mental health professionals as we discuss mental health topics related to children and adolescents in efforts to demystify diagnoses and illuminate mental health issues. Episodes cover self-esteem, ADHD, autism, self-harm, addiction, cultural influences, and treatment options.

In this episode Divvya’s guest is Lincoln Prairie therapist, Meeko Reddick. In this episode we:

  • Illuminate barriers that African Americans might face regarding to mental health
  • Discuss when to reach out for help


Divvya: Hi, Meeko, How are you?

Meeko: I’m doing good. I’m doing good. Thank you for having me again.

Divvya: Awesome. Yes, we’re excited to have you. Um, well, we know I’m just going to jump right in. Um, well, we know the experience of being black in America varies tremendously. There are shared cultural factors that play a role in helping define mental health and supporting well being resiliency and healing. And so with that Meeko I think I want to kind of take it back a few for a few minutes. Um, thinking about your childhood, What was mental health like for you back then? Like how did you perceive or how was mental health perceived in your community?

Meeko: Yeah. Um, so for me, I’m from Peoria Illinois. So, um, I would say the area I came from was the south side of Peoria which is more of a um dominated by African Americans that stayed down there. So for me, I really wasn’t introduced to mental health as a kid. Uh, that was something I really honestly didn’t learn about until I would say maybe in high school when I kind of experience my own uh you know bad experiences in life, whether if it was trauma due to losing someone or um just due to being depressed or anything like that. So um as a kid in my childhood, we didn’t really talk about that and the approach to how things were in my family was, we talked about it, we, we opened up about it, we shared with each other. Um we never really had the opportunity to go and talk to like a therapist or anything like that.

Divvya: Right? So you dealt with in house within the family within your faith, yep, yep, yep.

Meeko: So um everything was either, yeah, and my family was religious, so um things like, you need to just talk about, you can always just go talk to your pastor whenever you go to church or like I said, my mom and my father, they both, we’re pretty open with, hey, if anything’s wrong, come and chat with us, never sought out professional help.

Divvya: And so comparing it back to now, how do you think that has changed? How do you think you’re changing it? So for me, like, looking at how things are now, which is um I would say when I was a kid, um we were as expressive to each other about being down and sad like about your feelings.

Meeko: Yeah, exactly, like I thought it was like the old school kind of kind of approach where, you know, boys don’t really open up about being sad or being down like you have to, you crying, you better suck up because you don’t want your dad to see or you don’t want anybody else to see versus now, what I love about this generation is that they’re comfortable with being more open about their emotions, about what they’re going through um and doesn’t doesn’t really care what everybody else think about them. Boys are open with saying like, hey, I’m sad or I’m sad about this thing and they express it than anybody, and a lot of them are actually encouraging their friends to do the same thing. It’s not like you’re like the tough guy anymore, like being the one that never cries and stuff like, you see more people be more emotional and I love that, especially like in the black community, um like I said before, those opportunities weren’t there for me back then versus and that was what I was born in 94 so that’s why it was so long ago versus to put that out there, nobody judge me for my age, but or even if it was there, I think there were so many barriers, even like for myself personally, coming from an Asian community, we we had similar experiences ourselves where we dealt with in house, like we the family took care of it, we really didn’t sort out professional help or we just didn’t do it. And so I think same with you, I didn’t know the words depression and autism, A. D. H. D. Or suicidal thoughts until I got to high school and I was like oh wow like I can relate to these things or my mind was totally open.

Divvya: Exactly yeah and like we talked a little bit about already just about like the barriers of that like you know coming from the African American community, you know just the history of just different things that’s happened.

Meeko: Um you really don’t feel like maybe like that’s an opportunity for you or like a trust thing. I think that plays a big role with us. I would say coming from my culture is that if you don’t really feel like you can trust somebody you don’t really open up to them about what’s going on and that’s just something that I’ve seen from adults and you know rightfully so just from just things that they’ve experienced that when I was nowhere near around back then. So I understand and you know we had to we had to change though, you know and I think that’s what’s happened. We’ve changed the outlook on that as I’m like, hey you can’t knock things until you try it and we’ve done this, keep it in family. We’ve done the only speak to your people and we have to stop being like that in order for us to grow. We have to be able to connect with other people and get people to understand what’s going on from our point of view and there’s a lot of people that aren’t African America that are interested in learning more and to see how they can, what they can do to be helpful for us to open our eyes and minds a little bit more and discussing the barriers.

Divvya: Would you say there are any other barriers besides lack of trust that would hinder um, parents of children, like want to get their children some help.

Meeko: I would just say, uh, lack of opportunity to as well. Um, if you don’t really understand or know anything. So I think that’s what me and probably my, my parents too because my parents never talked about things like depression or I ain’t never heard my mom or dad even think or talk about a therapist or a hospital in any way unless it was like, you’re going to a hospital because you got an injury, you know. But other than that, those words weren’t around when I was a kid. And just to see that, I don’t think the opportunity was as broadcast as it was back then versus now it was not very social media based when I was, it was very negative back then.

Divvya: Right? And I think our shift is moving towards a very positive trend where it’s like you said, it’s okay to talk about these things. It’s okay to open up. It’s okay to take that initial step.

Meeko: Um, so I think that you bring up a great point. Yeah. And then just everything being at the snap of a finger now, you know when we were younger it was remember the A. O. L. Where you have to get the dialogue. Now I could just look into my phone and see that there are people out here that looks just like me that’s opening up about being depressed and encouraging people to go get treatment and to just go talk to a therapist and um to get your emotions and feelings out to somebody that’s unbiased because talking to our family issues maybe with them, but maybe the problem with them. But when you can go to somebody that don’t have really no connection with you that’s just interested in just listening and talking. It’s different and just give it a try. Like it’s okay to open up. So those barriers would just be opportunity and trust. I would say probably the biggest ones.

Divvya: So all of these issues that we’ve discussed I know can make it difficult to find and get help. But you know, like you said, Lincoln prairie, we offer no assessment. Um no cost assessments at any time of day. We offer inpatient outpatient and partial hospitalization programs here for Children and adolescents between the ages of Um three and 17 if you have, if you ever have any questions or would like to make a referral for a child. Please call us anytime at 217-585 1180. Um, so I want to thank you for your time. Thank you for your honesty and sharing your story with us and I think we need more people just to hear this. I think this will be a great podcast and a great, you know, listen for people are part of the African American community. Especially going into Black History month. You know, I think I encourage everybody to to check in with your mental health and, and and get on top of it because times are tough right now and we need to, you know, we need to stay on top of that. So I encourage you. And I know another barrier that we talked about a little bit of a cost thing. And like you said, uh no cost referral. So if you are talking to your Children and they are are speaking about anything. But hey, I’m not feeling this way and that way it’s okay to go get them assessed and get it done. So because we have a slew of services here that might, they might benefit from. We have a virtual outpatient program. Um, so we have a several opportunities that parents can take advantage of. Again, that number is 217-585-1180.

Meeko: Thank you so much. Thank you.

Divvya: Thank you everybody for listening and Happy Black History month. Yes as always stay happy stay hydrated And we’ll see you around. Thank you for joining us on Clinically Yours Lincoln prairie.