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This blog series will focus on the Baton Rouge community and issues we, as a young professional organization, can make an impact or start a discussion on.

 

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Top tags: baton rouge  community  diversity  inclusion  mental health  voting 

A Courageous Conversation: Building an Inclusive Community

Posted By Monique Harris & Chelsea Borruano, Tuesday, June 19, 2018

I don’t see color.” This statement is often said in an attempt to showcase an appreciation for diversity and acceptance of those that may be different from one’s self, but by the end of this blog post I hope you’ll think twice before using it again.


At this year’s Diversity Summit, Building an Inclusive Community, the panelists tackled inclusion’s role as the second wave of diversity and its importance.


About 15 minutes into the panel discussion, I regretted not being able to record it. The dialogue between our esteemed panelists was so authentic, vulnerable and insightful, both Chelsea and I knew we had to somehow capture the takeaways. So, we did that by getting together on a beautiful afternoon and having a real talk about diversity and ultimately, inclusion in our community.


I could dedicate this post to simply recapping who said what, but instead I’d like to share the insights that all seem to hinge on a central theme: diversity is being invited to the a party, inclusion is getting asked to dance.


One of our panelists shared a story in which he and his best friends were on their annual guys trip when his friend said, “man I don’t see you as black.” The panelist replied to his friend that there wasn’t a day that he didn’t know his friend was white. He injected that for someone to be colorblind means that you can’t fully see another because who you are is a direct result of your experience, and part of that experience is a result of your culture, your background.


The panel echoed this sentiment, and suggested that we grow together and we grow as a community when we give people the space to be themselves, their whole selves. Not having to check part of their identity at the door; that is what inclusivity is.


This matters to our community because, when there is a brain drain of people leaving for other places they feel more accepted, we all lose. We lose talented people, we lose prospective jobs, we lose solutions, and we lose community enrichment. For our city to continue to blossom, it is imperative we become inclusive to all of our residents.


Through multiple examples, the panelists shared ways in which they leaned into difficult conversations with an open mind, and simply kept asking questions without judgement.

How do you create inclusivity? You ask questions. You seek to gain more understanding of someone else’s experience. The starting place is acknowledging someone’s story without judgement; listening to seek to understand, not to offer a rebuttal. “I can't hear you when you’re screaming.” The core is being vulnerable to one another’s humanity. This challenge is what they left us with.


And now I’d like to challenge all of us to do the same. I hope that in your daily conversations you’ll lean into what can sometimes be the discomfort to learn more about someone else. I hope that you won’t work to be colorblind (or gender blind or any other type of blind), but rather work to see people as they are and as they share themselves to be. I too, am working on this daily. When I hear someone offer an opinion varying from mine, instead of immediately rebutting, I default on asking them follow up questions on why they hold that belief. In the short few weeks of practicing this, I’ve found myself growing to understand those around me on a deeper level than I expected.


We should all be having these conversations, with our peers, and with people who are culturally different from us. If you’re interested in learning more about this initiative and continuing the discussion, let us know by emailing diversity@forum35.org.  


Tags:  baton rouge  community  diversity  inclusion 

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“I am still in the middle of my story. I fear it will never end.”

Posted By Chelsea Borruano, MESH & You Aren't Alone Project, Wednesday, June 13, 2018

“I am still in the middle of my story. I fear it will never end.” -Mental Health poll respondent   

May was Mental Health Awareness Month. May was also followed by June, and the deaths of two prominent, influential, driven and passionate people who took their own lives. It's heartbreaking. It’s painful. It’s shocking—hearing about public figures, people who we've adored, committing suicide. But it shouldn't be a reminder that depression is one of the most dangerous of diseases. It shouldn't be the only time we consider what our cities and states are doing for mental and behavioral health. It shouldn't be the only time we think to look out for the "signs" which, by the way, are often hidden behind that smile or passion or drive.

 

Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain—they committed suicide last week, but let's not forget the average of 123 neighbors or classmates or loved ones each day that see no other way out of this desperate fight. Each year 44,965 Americans die by suicide. For every suicide, 25 others attempt it. Being kind to someone who is sad may cheer them up and brighten their day, but just being kind to someone with depression is not enough. They—we—need actual professional, possibly medical, and maybe holistic help. And sometimes we need someone to take that step with us, because depression is a lonely, dark, hopeless road that none of us should have to travel alone.

 

In May, we also asked you, the young professional community here in Baton Rouge, to give us your feedback, thoughts and experiences with mental health in our city. This is what you told us…

 

“Including federal matching dollars, the total cuts to the Louisiana Department of Health would amount to over half a billion dollars, compromising mental health services and substance abuse treatment programs when temporary revenue measures expire on July 1.”

 

Out of 24 respondents, 83% of you do not support these proposed budget cuts.

 

100% support health insurance coverage for the treatment of behavioral health.

 

96% of respondents answered yes to the question, “Do you suffer from or know someone who suffers from a mental illness?” and one respondent was “unsure” (we get that).

That same percentage has sought or knows someone who has successfully sought treatment for a mental health condition.

 

And lastly, only 8% feel Baton Rouge is adequately supporting behavioral health and addressing these issues among our community—that’s 80% who answered no and 12% who are unsure.

 

We also touched on the key factors that may keep someone from seeking treatment:

“money, being stigmatized
cost of treatment if insurance was unavailable
Cost and lack of knowledge on knowing where to go for help
cost
lack of available resource
embarrassment
quality of treatment
access
and fear of disclosure
there are few options for holistic health in Baton Rouge

 

There is definitely a theme. Stigma, cost, lack of resources – we all see the same issues, so the question now is, what are we going to do about it?

 

Since this survey, there’s been at least one positive mental health initiative for our city. Last week Mayor Broome announced the creation of an EMS mental health program, CISM (Critical Incident Stress Management). According to Broome, the CISM team will assist medics in coping with day-to-day work stresses and other mental health burdens that can arise from the workload, call volume, and the nature of certain emergency response situations. We challenge the community to expand on that. Bring this team out to the public as a Mental Health EMS squad. Obviously we’re just throwing ideas out there, BUT we’d like to see the young professionals in this community do something more with their ideas.

 

If you would like to be a part of this discussion and make an impact on mental health in our community, get in touch with us by emailing communications@forum35.org.



Tags:  baton rouge  community  mental health 

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2/17/2020
Communications Committee Meeting

2/19/2020
Uncorked Committee Meeting

2/19/2020
VOLUNTEER - St. Vincent de Paul Lunch Service

2/21/2020
Forum Friday with Dauda Sesay

3/3/2020
Service Committee Meeting

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