The Central Texas African American Family Support Conference (CTAAFSC) is around the corner. This is a yearly conference that helps to support consumers, family members and practitioners in learning more about coping with Mental Health as well as supporting someone who has Mental Health.
I spent time with a young woman and her mother who has attended the conference for the last five years. I wanted to get their feedback on the conference and how it has made a difference in their life. To keep their confidentiality, we will call the consumer Debra and her mother Ella. Erika Canales who works at Austin Travis County Integral Care , coordinated the interview with this family she also attended our meeting.
UM: How long have you attended the family support conference?
Debra: I have attended the conference for five years.
UM: What made you decide to attend the conference? Why do you still attend?
Debra: It is held at a nice hotel. The speakers talk about Mental Health and I benefit from listening. I also sit in on the planning and I like to see it materialize because I see the time and effort that is put into it for the community.
UM: What do you like about the CTAAFSC conference?
Debra: I like the conference because I volunteer, I see my friends, I meet people and I become more knowledgeable.
UM: What do you do as a volunteer?
Debra: I put the evaluation sheets on the seats and I pick them up at the end. I get what the speakers need.
UM: So you are busy?
UM: How has your life changed since you have attended the conference?
Debra: I’m interested in Mental Health and I have learned to deal with my depression and anxiety. I learn about coping skills and I read books, especially self-help books.
UM: What does the conference mean to you?
Debra: It builds my self-esteem. I learn to be calm and meditate. I meet people and I know I’m not alone. We are in this together. And the people in the conference support me and it’s okay to ask for help. You can also volunteer and learn things that will bring you a new awareness, recognize your challenges, express your feelings, which is a sign of strength. The conference is also educational, you share, learn about medications and therapy, and eating healthy. You can also learn how to recognize your challenges and you can ask for help.
UM: What do you want to tell the community about this year’s conference?
Debra: That I can’t wait to see it materialize. Terrie M. Williams will be there. I have read her book. You will become knowledgeable and it’s educational. You learn a lot and you feel lifted and blessed and you meet role models like Ericka (Canales). I have become more connected and healthier since becoming a part of the conference. I have learned new coping skills and I receive and give information to others. I have found meaning and my purpose.
UM: Do you mind if I ask your mom a few questions?
UM: How has the conference benefited or changed your life since you started to attend?
Ella: The conference has helped me to stay abreast of what’s going on. Things have changed and people need to know about mental health and the importance of medications. Attending the conference has kept me busy. We have to make people aware because the stigma of having mental health is still there. The conference has been very supportive and I like helping other families.
UM: So Ericka do you have anything to add to what Debra and Ella have said about the conference?
Ericka: I just want to add that the conference is to help eliminate the stigma and provide community awareness.
Ujima Magazine thanks Debra and her mom Ella for taking the time to talk with me about the conference and how it has made a difference in their life. We hope to see you at the conference on February 25-26th. To register and find more information please visit https://www.ctaafsc.org/.
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Damita Miller-Shanklin, Ujima Magazine
Photos: Google and ATCIC Facebook Page