Through his work as founder of Detroit Mental Health, Ken Walker set out to create “mental wealth” in the city of Detroit and fight mental health stigma. With the pandemic disproportionately affecting the Black community in Detroit, the work has taken on greater meaning as losses mount and Detroiters grapple with grief and tragedy from losing loved ones to the novel coronavirus.
As part of Mental Health Month through May, Walker is hosting the #ToolsToThrive amid COVID-19 series on Instagram to showcase tools that Detroiters can use to improve their mental health and increase resiliency. Every week, he has virtual conversations with local influencers and mental health professionals to cover key mental wellness topics.
This week he is focusing on the state of youth in Detroit. Today on Instagram, Keisha Jackson, founder and facilitator of the nonprofit Caleb’s Kids, will be on at 5:30 p.m. on Detroit Mental Health’s Instagram, followed by counselor Julie Weatherhead at 6 p.m. On Thursday, Courtney Smith, director and founder of Detroit Phoenix Center, who works with homeless youth in the city, will talk about how to support the most vulnerable kids in the city.
He’s focusing on youths because “there is a need for more education and more support to our youth, because they are going through things mentally that I think should be addressed more in a community.”
“We put even a stigma on youth, thinking that they can't go through depression, that they're not stressed about school and what the future holds, especially during uncertain times in the middle of their school year. Everything is paused. A lot of them are striving to find purpose. Some are thinking about college, … and for this to happen it caused a great amount of stress for them.”
Raising awareness has to be an ongoing conversation, Walker says. “[It] won't be solved in one event, one Instagram Live and one Detroit Mental Health Day, one social media post. All of this has to be continued dialogue. I want to ignite that discussion amongst the community so that we are breaking that stigma.”
The coronavirus crisis has shown that there is comfort in community, he says.
“This pandemic has really shown us that there is importance in community and that we can't deal with this alone, but also acknowledging that people are going through things that are maybe very similar. They may be coping differently, but we're all in it together.”
The #ToolsToThrive series wraps up next week. For the latest updates, go to Detroit Mental Health’s Instagram.