October is World Mental Health Month. With our Organization-in-Residence, Steel Smiling, we’re highlighting some “Steel Allies” who champion mental health and wellness in their communities.
Kevin Alton is a well-known community leader in Beltzhoover and spends much of his time mentoring youth through his organization, The Way Organization, and by coaching the South Side Bears Football team. He also is passionate about mental health in wellness for himself, his friends, and the young people he works with. Check out the Q&A below to learn more about his perspective!
What does Black mental health mean to you and for your life?
“Mental health means a lot to me. Without a strong mind you can end up in a whole lot of bad situations which can ruin your life or others. If I wouldn’t have gotten into therapy myself there is no telling if I would be alive today, so mental health plays a major role in my life.”
What does Black mental health mean in your community?
“Mental health in my community is much needed. Most of us grow up and are taught in our neighborhoods and household to not express your feelings because you might be looked at as weak and you’re also taught not to talk about what goes on in your house so people tend to keep this unwritten rule going for generations which makes people hold things in for years; and it eats at most people which in turns gives them an unhealthy lifestyle due to mental illness. If only people were comfortable talking and getting things out our communities would be able to live a healthier life.”
How do you promote caring for mental health and wellness with your friends, community members, etc?
“I actually tell people all the time about some of the things I talk about in therapy weekly, and I tell my friends about different exercises I learn so maybe they can use them. I also use what I learn in therapy to help the youth that I work with everyday.”
How has your role in mentoring young people in your community informed how you view mental health?
“My role I play in my community mentoring the youth makes me respect mental health more than I can explain. I take on so many issues and other people’s problems, and I absorb that energy and it affects my well being at times. Without mental heath I wouldn’t be able to continue the work that I do.”
For me, healing looks like…
“…not being afraid to accept help for your own well being”
What would you say to someone just beginning their healing journey?
“TRUST THE PROCESS!!!”
There is a strong connection between individual and community mental health. Our deep partnership with Steel Smiling aims to illuminate and strengthen those links in order to empower communities and their residents.
About Steel Smiling:
Steel Smiling bridges the gap between Black people and mental health support through education, advocacy and awareness. Their 10 year vision is to connect with every Black person in Allegheny County to a positive mental health experience that improves their quality of life by 2030.