Disability Advocate Chelsie Hill Has the *Best* Advice for Fending Off Fitness Class Intimidation

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Chelsie Hill seated on a wheel chair in front of a pool with yellow digital background surrounding her

By Zoe Weiner, Well + Good

When Chelsie Hill was in a car accident at age 17, her “whole world was flipped upside down,” she says. A spinal cord injury left her paralyzed from the waist down, but as a lifelong dancer, she refused to let the fact that she was in a wheelchair get in the way of her passion. So two years later, in 2012, she started a wheelchair dance team called “The Rollettes.”

Hill connected with a group of women through social media who, like her, were in wheelchairs and wanted to dance. “I wanted to meet girls like me and find friends… I wanted to just feel a sense of normalcy, and feel like I wasn’t the only person in my community or in the world who got in the car with a drunk driver or became paralyzed,” she says. “When you’re by yourself and you’re alone and you’re trying to figure out life, it can be very lonely—it can feel like you’re the only one. And for me, being around these girls helped me gain a sense of confidence that I never thought I would ever get.”

In the near-decade since the Rollettes conception, the group has performed all over the world, introduced the “Boundless Babes Society” mentorship program to connect women and girls living with a range of disabilities, and grown its platform to increase visibility for people with disabilities. “I have so many little ones who come to Rollettes Experience and they look on TV and they don’t see anybody like themselves,” says Hill. “And so for us, representation and education are the two biggest things that we’re very passionate about in every way.”

Hill’s role as the team choreographer has given her the opportunity to take the dance moves she loved when she was younger and make them accessible to people with differing abilities. “I love going to dance classes and adopting the choreography from an able-bodied choreographer to make it work for me,” she says. “That’s when I get the most creative, because I am forced to do moves that my body naturally wouldn’t know how to do… but I can translate them in a way that looks similar because my body is used to all of the moves from when I was a little girl. That’s kind of the advantage I have as a wheelchair dancer: I know how all these moves are as an [able-bodied person], so I just make them work for what my ability is now.”

Even with decades of experience under her belt, though, Hill is no stranger to the oh-so-relatable experience of entering a dance or workout class and immediately feeling intimidated—something many of us can relate to. “I was always so intimidated to go into any class, especially in Los Angeles with some of the top dancers in the industry, top choreographers and me and my wheelchair rolling in and people looking at me like, ‘What is she doing here? Does she know where she is?'” she says. “So I can totally empathize with that feeling of not feeling like you’re ready.”

Click here to read the full article on Well + Good.

Fitness Trainer Karena Dawn Launches Mental Health Organization in Honor of Her Late Mother

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Fitness Trainer Karena Dawn smiling at the camera in a green silk button up shirt

By Stephanie Emma Pfeffer, People

Karena Dawn doesn’t shy away from hard conversations.

The co-founder of Tone It Up is launching a new charitable organization, The Big Silence, to normalize discussions about mental health issues.

“I’ve been wanting to create a foundation and a resource for many years,” says Dawn, who was just 12 years old when her mom was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and depression.

“[My mom] was in and out of the house many times, from being a missing person to being in the hospital,” Dawn tells PEOPLE exclusively. “And it was in the ’90s, so no one was talking about mental health.”

As a teenager, Dawn tried to research mental illness and schizophrenia at the library. “There were no resources out there for me to lean on,” she recalls. “It kind of sent me in a spiral of my own situational depression, drug abuse, suicide attempt and losing a lot of friends because no one around me was talking about it.”

That’s why she believes so strongly in offering support for those who are struggling. “There’s a stigma around mental health,” says the NYT bestselling author. “That is what The Big Silence is: It’s the thing you don’t want to talk about. At The Big Silence, we are here to break the silence.”

The content platform, which she leads with her sister Rachel Sahaidachny as executive director, is dedicated to normalizing conversations around mental health through online and social content, as well as a podcast hosted by Dawn.

“Because of my mom’s mental illness, I went through a really dark period — from about 12 years old until about 22,” she says. “I was at a breaking point.”

She found light again by focusing on fitness. “I was on a three-day bender and was thinking back about when I was my happiest,” she says. “It was when I was running, and I was active and I was working out.”

“At that time I thought, in my own depression, that I was going to end up like my mom, so I didn’t believe in myself.” But she decided to do something positive and signed up for a triathalon. “I trained my butt off and did the race,” she says. “I crossed the finish line, like ‘Wow, like I accomplished something.’ ”

From then on, she says, she wanted to teach people that movement is medicine, which led to her co-founding Tone It Up in 2009 and further dedicating herself to not only her physical health but her mental health as well, through self-help books, therapy and meditation.

Click here to read the full article on People.

Why New York City May Soon Be More Walkable for Blind People

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Accessible Pedestrian Signals help blind and visually impaired pedestrians cross city streets.

A federal judge on Monday ordered New York City officials to install more than 9,000 signal devices at intersections to make it easier for pedestrians who are visually impaired to safely cross the streets.

In an opinion released Monday morning, Judge Paul A. Engelmayer criticized city officials for failing to make the vast majority of New York’s more than 13,000 intersections safe for thousands of blind and visually impaired residents. He ordered the appointment of a federal monitor to oversee the installation of the signal devices, which use sounds and vibrations to inform people when it is safe to cross a roadway.

The ruling will change the face of New York City’s street corners, the vast majority of which are only governed by visible cues like flashing countdowns, red hands and walking figures. It also marks a significant advancement for disability rights in major urban centers, many of which have not fully embraced accessible crossings for blind residents.

“There has never been a case like this. We can finally look forward to a day, not long from now, when all pedestrians will have safe access to city streets,” said Torie Atkinson, a lawyer for the American Council of the Blind and two visually impaired New Yorkers, who filed the suit. “We hope this decision is a wake-up call not just to New York City, but for every other transit agency in the country that’s been ignoring the needs of people with vision disabilities.”

Nick Paolucci, a spokesman for the city’s Law Department, said that the ruling acknowledged the “operational challenges” the city has faced in its attempts to install the systems over the years.

“We are carefully evaluating the court’s plan to further the city’s progress in increasing accessibility to people who are blind and visually impaired,” Mr. Paolucci said in a statement.

The case, which was filed in 2018, accused the Department of Transportation and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, making roadways treacherous for those who cannot see. Last October, Judge Engelmayer ruled in the plaintiffs’ favors, saying the city had violated the law hundreds of times by failing to install accessible signals.

While the city ramped up installation after the lawsuit was filed, it still lagged far behind the pace needed to make its infrastructure widely accessible for blind residents, the judge said, adding the city’s decision was not rooted in financial concerns or logistical hurdles but in political will and budgetary priorities.

The failure to install the technology more widely, the judge wrote, impedes the independence of people who need them, by making it difficult to cross streets safely in a timely fashion.

Accessible pedestrian signals, or A.P.S., are present at less than 4 percent of city intersections. They communicate when it is safe to cross through voice recordings, beeps and other sounds. They also vibrate to communicate to deaf and hearing-impaired residents.

Despite being seen as critical safety measures, the devices have not been embraced on a large scale in New York, the country’s densest city, where around 2.4 percent of residents are visually impaired. The first accessible pedestrian device was installed at a city intersection in 1957, but the rollout in the decades since has been halting. Current estimates say that nearly 65 years later, the city has installed fewer than 1,000 of the devices.

“On a daily basis I have to deal with trying not to get hit by cars because there is no A.P.S. telling me when it is safe to cross,” Christina Curry, who is deafblind, a term used to describe someone with combined hearing and sight loss, and a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said in a statement. “Installing so many A.P.S. over the next 10 years means that I and tens of thousands of deafblind New Yorkers will have access to street crossing information and be able to travel safely, freely and independently throughout the city.”

Click here to read the full article on the New York Times.

How To Make Your Holidays More Accessible

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how to have an accessible holiday

By Andrew Pulrang, Forbes

The year-end holiday season is a complex time for people with disabilities, and for their family and friends. It’s a time for celebration, sharing, and togetherness that can provide a break from everyday cares and strengthen supportive bonds. At the same time, the holidays bring disabled and non-disabled people together in more extensive and sometimes demanding ways that can put inclusive values and good intentions to the test.

Amid all the joy and celebrations, familiar routines and coping mechanisms are disrupted. Disabilities we know about in theory become suddenly very real and immediately practical. Disabled and non-disabled family and friends struggle to anticipate and accommodate each other to ensure everyone has a good time and nobody feels put upon or left out. And that’s in the reasonably functional families and friend groups. In others, the holidays often uncover hidden layers of ignorance, ableism, exclusion, and petty resentment.

So how can we make the holidays better all around for disabled friends and family?

1. Ask disabled people

Most disabled people know on some level what they need, and what they are and aren’t comfortable with. So the first, best source of help is to ask disabled people themselves. It’s not hard. Just ask, “Is there anything we can do to make it easier and more comfortable for you?”

Of course, if you have specific questions or ideas, ask about them. For example:

How do we provide comfortable places to sit and rest where disabled guests can be fully a part of the group?

Are there accessible pathways to places where different activities will be happening?

What can we do for family and guests who are deaf or hard of hearing, especially where background noise can make individual voices hard to hear? What about people who may be neurologically sensitive to loud or startling noises, like sudden laughing or cheering?

Dim lighting helps set a holiday mood and highlight Christmas decorations, but it also makes it hard for people with visual impairments to get around. What can we do to compensate?

Are there easily accessible and comfortable areas where guests can get away from the main group and rest for a bit?

Click here to read the full article on Forbes.

A study links facing discrimination at a young age with future mental health issues

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According to the UCLA researchers, people who faced any discrimination had a 26% greater risk of poor health than those who said they hadn't faced any.

By , NPR

A new study suggests that people who face discrimination at a young age are more likely to develop behavioral and mental health problems later in life.

And the risks may be cumulative; those who faced more incidents of discrimination had an even higher risk of future problems, researchers found.

The UCLA study, published in the journal Pediatrics on Sunday, looked at health data for 1,834 Americans who were between the ages of 18 and 28 when the study started. The authors said it was the first time researchers had probed the effects of discrimination on the same group of young people during their transition to adulthood.

“With 75% of all lifetime mental health disorders presenting by age 24, the transition to adulthood is a crucial time to prevent mental and behavioral health problems,” Yvonne Lei, a medical student at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the study’s corresponding author, said in a press release.

The data came from the University of Michigan’s Transition to Adulthood Supplement of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics survey, in which 93% of respondents reported experiencing discrimination. It included discrimination based on age, physical appearance, sex, race and other factors.

According to the UCLA researchers, people who faced any discrimination had a 26% greater risk of poor health than those who said they hadn’t faced any.

And young people who faced frequent discrimination, which was defined as at least a few times per month, saw a roughly 25% jump in their likelihood of being diagnosed with a mental illness over those who had faced little or no discrimination. They were also twice as likely to develop severe psychological stress.

The study also suggested a connection between the effects of discrimination on young people and the disparate levels of care they receive in the health care system.

Click here to read the full article on NPR.

The U.S. surgeon general issues a stark warning about the state of youth mental health

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U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy

By , NPR

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has a warning about the mental health of young people.

Murthy told Morning Edition that children and young adults were already facing a mental health crisis before the coronavirus pandemic began: One in three high school students reported persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, a 40% increase from 2009 to 2019, he said. Suicide rates went up during that time by 57% among youth ages 10 to 24. During the pandemic, rates of anxiety and depression have increased, he said.

The pandemic has made the issues behind the mental health crisis only worse, he said.

“This is a critical issue that we have to do something about now,” he said. “We can’t wait until after the pandemic is over.”

Murthy, who issued an advisory called “Protecting Youth Mental Health,” also cites gun violence, the specter of climate change, racism and social conflict as sources of stress.

“We also have to recognize that kids increasingly are experiencing bullying, not just in school but online, that they’re growing up in a popular culture and a media culture that reminds kids often that they aren’t good-looking enough, thin enough, popular enough, rich enough, frankly, just not enough,” he said.

“Even to this day, even though I have parents who I know unconditionally loved me, I never felt comfortable telling them about it because I thought that this was my fault. I don’t want that to be the reality for my children, who are 4 and 5 and growing up, you know, in this very complicated world.”

Listen to the conversation or read on to learn about Murthy’s own struggles with loneliness and anxiety as a child. The interview has been lightly edited.

On how technology companies need to design platforms that strengthen youth mental health:

They’ve got to be transparent with data on the harms and benefits so that we can understand which children, in particular, are most at risk. But most importantly, we need them in the long term and short term to design platforms that strengthen youth mental health. The current business model of most platforms is built on how they maximize time spent — not time well spent, but time spent. And we need these platforms to be designed to strengthen the mental health of our kids to make them better. And right now, we’re conducting this national experiment on our kids with social media. And it’s worrisome to me as a parent.

On the importance of combating stigma:

As much as technology has an important role here, what we are calling for in this advisory are much broader changes as well. We’re asking for individuals to take action to change how we think and talk about mental health so people with mental health struggles know that they have nothing to be ashamed of and it’s OK to ask for help. That stigma is so powerful still around mental health, something I experienced as a young person who struggled with mental health. I didn’t know that I could ask for help and I was ashamed. But we’re also calling for expanded access to mental health care, for increases in mental health counselors in schools and investments in social-emotional learning curricula in schools, as well as, finally, for people to invest in relationships in their life.

Click here to read the full article on NPR.

How actors with disabilities are changing the narrative in Hollywood

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Hollywood's Ryan O'Connell is the creator behind Special. He and his cast have earned a total of four Emmy nominations for the show about a millennial gay man living with cerebral palsy while trying to make it as a writer.

By Tashauna Reid, CBC News

When Ryan O’Connell created his Netflix series Special, he knew it was good. But he didn’t imagine the comedy would earn four Emmy nominations, including best comedy, in its first season. “I always believed in the show,” said O’Connell. “But having that validated is sort of incredible.” Special is about a millennial gay man living with cerebral palsy while trying to make it as a writer. But when he gets hit by a car just before starting his new job, he decides to hide his disability from his co-workers, citing the accident as the reason for his limp and dexterity issues. It’s a story that rings true for O’Connell. It is, after all, based on his real life.

O’Connell wrote every episode, produced, and starred in the show. And like his character in Special, O’Connell also hid his disability after a car accident — until he decided to come out of the “disability closet'” in his late 20s. He is one of a growing number of creators and actors with disabilities who are breaking ground in Hollywood, in a film and TV industry criticized for still having a long way to go when it comes to inclusion. This past June, Broadway star Ali Stroker became the first person in a wheelchair to win a Tony Award for her performance in Oklahoma!. Last month, Marvel announced its first deaf superhero. And mainstream shows like AMC’s The Walking Dead and HBO’s Years and Years are casting actors with disabilities. “I think that disability representation is like the last to the representation party. Like, maybe that party wasn’t handicap accessible, but honey we plowed our way through,” said O’Connell.

O’Connell started shopping his script around in 2015. But at the time, he says networks were hesitant to take on the show about a gay man with a disability. “It was a hard sell.” Even with the help of The Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parsons, whose production company backed the project, it took four years to get the show made. Based on his memoir I’m Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves, the series is now being praised by critics for its authentic portrayal of disability, sex and relationships, and family dynamics. “Even though it came in kind of an unconventional package, [the story] was very universal​,” said O’Connell. “People are realizing that stories like this need to be told,” he said. “[And be] told by the people that have lived it.” And perhaps the best surprise to date? O’Connell himself has earned an Emmy nod for best actor. “I feel like it kind of fits in the narrative of Special,” he said. “We just keep trucking along and defying the odds.”

‘It wasn’t even on their mind’

Los Angeles-based actor and advocate Tatiana Lee, who was born with spina bifida, is someone else who has been working to advance opportunities for people with disabilities in Hollywood. “They want you to audition at a space that’s on a second floor with no elevator,” said Lee. “People who are deaf are going to auditions and an interpreter is not provided.” Lee blogs about her own experiences as an actor who uses a wheelchair and also works with Respectability, a non-profit seeking to break down stigmas around disability in the industry. The organization hosts panel discussions and works with studios and writers’ rooms to help ensure more realistic, accurate portrayals of those with disabilities.

Click here to read the full article on CBS News.

SPAN Program provides specialized health care for adults with special needs

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two adults with special needs laughing together

By

Regardless of age or health history, taking care of yourself and forming strong healthy habits is one of the most important things you can do. Achieving wellness looks different for all of us, but may be especially challenging for those with disabilities or special needs. Thankfully, some medical professionals have the expertise and compassion to help adults in this situation.

Dually certified in pediatrics and internal medicine, Laura Gaffney, MD, has dedicated her career to caring for adults with special needs. She started the Special Pediatric-to-Adult Need program, or SPAN, at AdventHealth Medical Group Primary Care at Shawnee Mission. The SPAN program is the only primary care program in the Kansas City area for adults with special needs including Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy and genetic disorders. It was Dr. Gaffney’s relationship with her mother and grandmother that prompted her to establish the SPAN program.

“My mom had multiple sclerosis and was in a wheelchair,” said Dr. Gaffney. “I felt like she did not get the care she deserved. People would often treat her as if she had impaired intellectual ability, yet she was a pharmacist. Also, my grandmother was a librarian for children with special needs.”

As the medical director of SPAN, Dr. Gaffney has built a team that provides comprehensive, patient-focused care for adults with a chronic condition that persists from childhood to adulthood. The SPAN program offers these patients a consistent and reliable medical home with same-day appointments.

“There are few primary care clinics in the United States for adults with a variety of overlapping needs,” said Dr. Gaffney. “We work to ensure our clinic meets the needs of this unique group.”

Dr. Gaffney and her team will see a patient’s family members and caregivers, which provides an integrated approach to care and a better understanding of the social and emotional needs of the patient. They also have social workers on hand and provide diabetes education. In addition, the clinic features an exam bed that lowers to 14 inches allowing easy transfers and the ability to weigh a patient up to 450 pounds.

“These are ways we are providing whole-person care to adults with special needs,” said Dr. Gaffney. “We have also identified dentists, physical therapists and other specialists who are interested in caring for people with special needs and doing it with respect.”

Dr. Gaffney describes herself as a curious and empathic person. These traits coupled with her background as an internal medicine and pediatric physician give her a unique perspective allowing her to provide excellent medical care for patients with special needs.

“I have been trained to understand genetic, developmental and intellectual issues and how those change as people age,” said Dr. Gaffney. “People with genetic diseases, neurologic diversity and cerebral palsy are living longer lives and there are few physicians that are willing and educationally able to care for this group.”

Click here to read the full article on Shawnee Mission Post.

Selena Gomez launches new media platform with a focus on mental health

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Selena Gomez smiling at the camera at a red carpet event

By Megan Marples, CNN

Talking about mental health is good for you, according to pop star, actor, and producer Selena Gomez, and she’s determined to be the catalyst for positive change.

The “Ice Cream” singer announced the launch of her latest venture, Wondermind, a mental health platform focused on connecting people with educational resources and ending the stigma around mental illnesses.

She teamed up with her mother, Mandy Teefey, and The Newsette founder and CEO Daniella Pierson to create the media company, which is set to launch in February 2022.

Gomez hasn’t been shy when it comes to discussing her mental health publicly. She previously wrote for CNN about how she’s a “big advocate for social media detoxes” and therapy.

And she announced on Miley Cyrus’ Instagram show “Bright Minded” in April that she has bipolar disorder.

“I went to one of the best mental hospitals in America, McLean Hospital, and I discussed that after years of going through a lot of different things, I realized that I was bipolar,” Gomez said. “And so when I got to know more information, it actually helps me. It doesn’t scare me once I know it.”

Her mother revealed being misdiagnosed for over 20 years with bipolar disorder that later turned out to be attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, with trauma, according to the Wondermind website’s welcome video.

Pierson opened up in the video as well, saying she has dealt with obsessive-compulsive disorder since she was a child.

The three said they struggled to find a safe space online where they could engage with uplifting content about mental health on a daily basis. Enter Wondermind.

Click here to read the full article on CNN.

The Tourette’s community is livid over the ‘TikTok tics’ media frenzy

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The Tourette’s community is livid over the ‘TikTok tics’ media frenzy

By Jessica Lucas, Input

Last month, a Wall Street Journal article titled “Teen Girls Are Developing Tics. Doctors Say TikTok Could Be a Factor” went viral on social media.

The piece reported a rise in young women presenting with symptoms of Tourette syndrome, a widely misunderstood neurological disorder that impacts roughly 0.6 percent of children and causes people to experience tics — involuntary and repetitive movements or sounds.

The Journal cited “a spate of recent medical journal articles,” in which doctors claim many girls with unexplained tics “had been watching videos of TikTok influencers who said they had Tourette syndrome.” The piece, which featured two teenage girls who linked their tics to TikTok, said that pediatric movement-disorder centers across the U.S. had reported “an influx of teen girls with similar tics.”

“PEOPLE automatically think we’re doing things for ATTENTION, or that there’s NO WAY that Tourette syndrome can be REAL.”
The article acknowledged that the “TikTok tics” epidemic was anecdotal and even quoted an academic who cast doubt on TikTok being the root cause of this phenomenon. “There are some kids who watch social media and develop tics and some who don’t have any access to social media and develop tics,” Dr. Joseph McGuire of Johns Hopkins University Tourette’s Center told the paper. “I think there are a lot of contributing factors, including anxiety, depression, and stress.”

But the headline was damaging enough. And it was worsened by subsequent coverage: Buzzfeed, the New York Post, People, and Business Insider ran with the story — all without any input from the Tourette’s community itself, which has been horrified by the press frenzy.

Ben Brown, host of the Tourette’s Podcast, has been deeply perturbed, as have his listeners. “There’s a lot of frustration. Some people are just livid,” says Brown, who is 41 and based in North Carolina. He was diagnosed with Tourette syndrome at the age of five, but lived a “closeted” life with the condition while he worked as a photojournalist. Brown “came out” with Tourette’s when he launched his podcast in 2018.

“Now we have scientists who are saying things we know from experience are just not safe,” Brown says. He and many others living with Tourette syndrome fear the current rhetoric around TikTok tics could further stigmatize Tourette’s, especially for young women.

Britney Wolf is a 31-year-old Tourette’s campaigner from Ohio. “People automatically think we’re doing things for attention, or that there’s no way that Tourette syndrome can be real,” says Wolf, who was diagnosed with Tourette’s at the age of seven. She interviews people with the condition on her YouTube channel in a bid to challenge stereotypes. “There’s already so many of these people trying to tear us down,” she says, “and articles like this give them more fuel to start claiming that all advocates are faking it.”

Jaleesa Jenkins, a 24-year-old Tourette’s YouTuber from California, is most frustrated by the suggestion that Tourette-like symptoms can be “caught” through platforms like TikTok. “The idea is really oversimplified and really stigmatizing,” she says. “It’s just not true. It makes people afraid, suspicious, or scared to be around us.”

It seems that the recent press attention has undone years of campaigning. “People with Tourette syndrome have worked hard for a very long time to feel understood — particularly for people to understand that tics aren’t voluntary or done for attention,” says Dr. Christine Conelea. The clinical practitioner and researcher is an assistant professor of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Minnesota and has worked with Tourette’s patients for 15 years. “I worry that those who are doing advocacy on social media spaces will be questioned and targeted.”

Wolf finds the situation heartbreaking. “So many people have told me how much they have learned about Tourette’s because of people online,” she says. “It felt like we were finally getting somewhere. Now it feels like we’re being pulled back.”

Click here to read the full article on Input.

Boris Kodjoe on prioritizing his ‘spiritual, mental and physical health’: ‘I take time every single day to just be with myself’

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Boris Kodjoe sitting and smiling for the camera

By Erin Donnelly and Stacy Jackman, Yahoo! Life

The Unwind is Yahoo Life’s well-being series in which experts, influencers and celebrities share their approaches to wellness and mental health, from self-care rituals to setting healthy boundaries to the mantras that keep them afloat.

On-screen, Boris Kodjoe is saving lives as a firefighter on the ABC action-drama Station 19. Off-screen, he’s hoping to do the same by amplifying a new Men’s Health Awareness Month campaign highlighting the risks of prostate cancer, particularly for Black men like him, who are 75 percent more likely to be diagnosed with the disease and twice as likely to die from it.

In a video interview with Yahoo Life, the Austrian-born actor stresses the importance of looking after one’s physical and mental health. In terms of the former, he’s partnering with Depend and the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) for the return of the Stand Strong for Men’s Health initiative to destigmatize male incontinence and offer support to those being treated for prostate cancer; Depend will donate up to $350,000 to the cause.

Kodjoe calls the cause a “very personal” one, as he saw a close friend and mentor undergo his own battle with prostate cancer.

“It reminded me that I needed to take care of myself,” he says. “And the first step to do that is to talk about health issues, to talk about everything that concerns us — spiritual, mental and physical health — to be vulnerable, to be open and not to consider it as a weakness to talk about these things. And as Black men, we are facing a lot of things every single day. There’s a lot of weight on our shoulders, but in order to take care of others, we’ve got to take care of ourselves first.”

The Soul Food actor hopes the initiative and breakthrough in cancer research will help draw attention and find solutions to the racial disparities present in access to quality health care. He also wants to spark conversations about other pressing health issues within the Black community, including obesity and the mental strain brought upon by the pandemic and social justice unrest.

Now 48 and a father of two — he and his actress wife Nicole Ari Parker share a daughter and son — Kodjoe is prioritizing his own health needs as he gets older.

“I’m getting to an age now where I’m the guy now holding the phone six feet away from my face so I can read what’s on the screen,” he jokes. “It’s undeniable that we’re all getting older and so we need just those constants… I’m the first one to admit that I didn’t do a great job always taking care of myself. I have a family and they depend on me, so I need to do that.”

That includes looking after his mental headspace, too.

“I practice what I preach and I take time every single day to just be with myself, whether it’s my morning prayer, meditation or laying down and stretching in my trailer when I have five or 10 minutes between shots,” he says. “There’s stuff that you can do that’s pretty simple to include in your daily routine that you could turn into a habit. And it’s important because we have so many habits that are detrimental to our health. We need to balance that out with habits that are actually good for ourselves — whether it’s mental health, spiritual health or our physical health — that will ensure that we’re here for a longer time.”

The Real Husbands of Hollywood star — who will soon make his directorial debut with the Lifetime movie Safe Space, in which he stars opposite his wife — says that his work can also be “therapeutic.”

“It’s a creative outlet,” he says. “It’s a way for me to represent who I am, to represent us [the Black community] in the most multi-dimensional way possible. Historically we’ve been sort of portrayed in one-dimensional ways. And I think that every role we take on, we try to make sure that you represent our culture in a way that shows how multi-dimensional we are. It’s an outlet that I’m really grateful to have.”

While that work is rewarding, Kodjoe is careful to maintain what he calls a “work-life list of priorities,” with his family at the top.

Click here to read the full article on Yahoo! Life.

Air Force Civilian Service

Air Force Civilian Service

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Upcoming Events

  1. From Day One
    January 18, 2022
  2. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  3. From Day One
    February 9, 2022
  4. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
  5. From Day One
    February 22, 2022

Upcoming Events

  1. From Day One
    January 18, 2022
  2. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  3. From Day One
    February 9, 2022
  4. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
  5. From Day One
    February 22, 2022