It’s 8:30 a.m. and Rogers InHealth is facilitating a group of community residents and organizations from Milwaukee’s central city neighborhoods to brainstorm for ideas on how to create an atmosphere of compassion toward children’s mental health challenges. This isn’t the first time this group has met, and their ultimate goal is to determine how, as partners, they give wind to this initiative so it will have the ability to fly.
The basis of this brainstorming workshop centered on the fact that in the African American culture, family, community and faith are great sources of strength and support. School and community mental health professionals can be looked at with skepticism when families are approached about concerns regarding challenges a child is facing. How can we create a greater acceptance toward seeking the help of mental health professionals, while at the same time, increase mental health professionals’ understanding and integration of the cultural wisdom of the family and community? Therein lies the challenge.
At a previous meeting, the group’s goals and objectives were discussed. The ultimate goal is to “enhance the well-being of children who have mental and behavioral challenges” within the African American community. This will be accomplished through training and supporting resident leaders to:
- provide information and supportive services to parents,
- raise awareness of the historical impact of mental health/trauma challenges in the African American community, and
- empower communities to recognize and address these challenges.
Early in the day, the group came up with 12 strategies to help achieve their ultimate goal, but as the day went on the list grew. Each person in the room wrote their name by strategies they can personally help with. Ideas flowed quickly, from parent cafés, to support groups, to teacher resources. Then, one by one, they worked their way around the table describing what resources each has to offer to accomplish their objectives.
Changing cultural perceptions of mental health disease is a huge challenge to overcome, but with the commitment of all of these organizations working together, one can’t help but believe it is possible.
This community partnership is funded by a generous grant made by the Northwestern Mutual Foundation. As the residents and organizations decide and act upon specific strategies, Rogers InHealth will be assisting with evaluation and program refinement. The results will guide us as we expand the effective practices throughout the greater Milwaukee area and will serve as a model for others seeking to improve children’s well-being through collaboration among school, community, and parent providers.