Jouvanna Brame to Host First Annual Mental Health Awareness Conference at Loyola University.

This Weekend Marks the First Annual Shades Of Resilience Workshop led by Senior Loyola University Student Jouvanna Brame.

Loyola University Senior Student Jouvanna Brame will host the first annual Shades of Resilience: Mental Health in Communities of Color Conference. It is geared to spread awareness and bring up the importance of discussing mental health for minorities.

First off I would like to introduce (Jouvanna “JoJo” Brame ).

Please, Give a summary of yourself and your background.

My name is JoJo Brame, and I am 22 years old and from Connecticut. I am the youngest of 8 (2 on my mother’s side and 6 on my father’s). I am currently in my final semester at Loyola University Maryland studying psychology with a minor in writing.

My goal someday is to be a Forensic Psychologist for the juvenile justice system, assisting at-risk youth with finding and implementing the best resources to aid in their adolescent development. In my personal time I enjoy writing poetry, watching the Investigation Discovery channel, binging Netflix movies, and napping.

Mental Health has always been an issue. Yet many people don't seem to grasp it or even want to approach the topic. Why do you think so?

Mental health is a topic that requires a level of attention and care that some may not want to attribute to. It’s a sensitive topic for many, so discussion around mental health can be limited.

What is the biggest challenge you think minorities face with mental illness?

The biggest challenge that I can personally speak on regarding minorities who face mental illness, is the lack of support from family. Just from having conversations with my closest friends and in class, there is not a huge support system that is present.

From the perspective of some family members, being “depressed” becomes a synonymous adjective with “sad” and although being sad is a symptom of depression, it runs deeper. There are layers into understanding mental illnesses. The severity of the experiences that many people of color go through with mental illness is real. You just don’t get over it. It’s here. It exists, and it’s a process.

What is the goal for your event?

The goal of this event is to promote and educate everyone, regardless of color, about what mental illness is, the stigmas that circulate it, and how we as a society can have supportive conversations with one another.

We also want to highlight the many opportunities and careers that are offered in the field of mental health as well. The aim of the conference is to not only support students in identifying resources for training into mental health fields, but to also increase our understanding of the ways in which the mind and the body work together, highlighting the value of coping outlets to restore our energy and sense of self.

Lastly, I want this event to be a networking opportunity for students at Loyola to interact with not only faculty and staff on campus but other students and faculty/staff from other campuses in the area.

Do you have any personal experiences with mental health?

Yes. I honestly used to be ashamed of living because I genuinely felt that everyone who I came in contact with would view me differently. I was extremely fearful of how my social relationships - platonic and romantic would be hindered because in my head, no one wants to deal with someone who gets extremely irritable, upset, or disappears for a few days without communication.

It never occurred to me that my life would consist of seeing a therapist and psychiatrist, taking SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors), creating emergency plans, and overall hiding all of this from my family and closest friends. This became a secret that I was ashamed to share with anyone because of fear of doubt. Being fearful worsened how I felt about everything I was going through and it took me awhile to come around and talk about that part of my life. I started exhibiting symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder when I was 16 years old. However, during the spring semester of my freshman year of college, I really exploded and had a terrible breakdown which resulted in my hospitalization at one of the local hospitals down here in Baltimore.

I entered a three-week Intensive Outpatient treatment program where I completed cognitive behavioral therapy, group sessions, and one on ones with a social worker and medical doctor. My first day I ran into the bathroom stall and called a friend, bawling my eyes out because I was scared. Currently, I am no longer on medication and currently not in therapy or intensive treatment. I have an outstanding support group and even pray in the mornings before I start my day. So, there has been major progression from the first year of college until now.

What are some resources you would recommend to people struggling with mental health?

If the person is comfortable, I would highly recommend finding someone they can confide in to disclose what they’re going through, and I know how hard it is to reach out in the moment, but talking it out really helps. For college students, utilize your university’s counseling center. Once again, if you feel that it is too much, try and reach out to someone who can support and encourage you to seeing that option through. Another good resource is to find healthy and stimulating activities that keep you from slipping. Personally, I like to listen to music and to write. If it helps, finding something that you’re passionate about and make an attempt to immerse yourself in that activity eases some of the struggles as well.

Who would you like to shout out or thank?

First and foremost, I would like to thank God for allowing me to execute this vision and always keeping me grounded. Next, I would like to shout out Alicia Espinal-Mesa, a Loyola 2018 graduate. She is a huge reason as to why I am hosting this conference. We co-founded and co-facilitated a town hall at Loyola, presented at a writing conference and as a result, I was encouraged to see this idea through until the end. I appreciate you and love you so much.

To Allie and Jazz, my right hands: Working alongside the two of you has been beyond amazing. Allie, I remember the day I called you and told you that I have this idea and asking  if you would help me fulfill a dream. You are more than a friend but a sister; someone who has seen me grow this year in more ways than ever. I love you and thank you all the time for being apart of my life. Jazz, it’s almost as if God led us to each other. You are a spirit filled with love and grace. Thank you for being my backbone and creating the amazing logo and flyer for this event. You have been gifted with a real talent and I am beyond proud of the two of you.

To Dom, Joey, Tim, Dr. Joseph, Dr. Bennett, and Dr. Graham: Words cannot express how grateful I am from the bottom of my heart for all the love, laughs and support on this journey. It’s not likely you find people in your life who see your vision as clearly as you do, but I’ve been lucky and blessed to have that group of people in my life. Thank you for always being a phone call or email away, always asking me questions, checking up on me to see if I slept and most importantly, always being an extra hand in this process. This day would not have been possible without you.

Lastly, to Jameel: even miles away, it feels as if you never left my side. Thank you for seeing something in me that I could not see. You have been a huge influence in my life this year and having the opportunity to work with you has been nothing but a blessing from God. Thank you for challenging me and being more than my advisor, but my mentor, my friend, and someone I can call family.

To everyone else who I did not thank by name, charge it to my head and not my heart - I am very appreciative of how you have played a role on this journey.

Thank you to everyone at The Lunch Table for allowing me to share my story and the work of this conference. I appreciate it!

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