Let’s Talk About It: Mental Health, Stigma, and a New Podcast

Let’s Talk About It: Mental Health, Stigma, and a New Podcast
Jodie Patterson, a Brooklyn neighbor and advocate, author of The Bold World: A Memoir of Family and Transformation talks with First Lady Chirlane McCray.

“It’s a more personal way to reach people where they are,” First Lady Chirlane McCray said, announcing the launch of Thrive with Chirlane McCray, a new podcast about mental health.

A podcast focused on mental health, an idea that’s been on her mind for a few years, is now a reality thanks to a collaboration with BRIC in Downtown Brooklyn, and McCray and BRIC President Kristina Newman-Scott will host an event to launch this partnership Wednesday, February 19th. Plans for the monthly conversations include a broad range of guests – from advocates and health professionals to artists and writers, to family, and each 30-minute episode includes information about where and how New Yorkers can access relevant resources, services, and support in the City.

We talked to the First Lady about why she thinks it is so important to talk about mental health, why eating well and going to the gym is not enough, and how you just don’t know whom you need to reach.

Bklyner (B): Your first guest was your son Dante. He interviewed you rather than you interviewing him?

CM: That’s right. He interviewed me and the podcast is called Keeping It All in the Family. These can be difficult conversations to have in a family. It don’t happen enough. And we thought it would be a great example of how it can happen, how to talk about it.

[Listen to the episode below]

B: Why do you think it’s so important that we talk about mental health and wellbeing?

CM: “Well, there’s been such a stigma about talking about our feelings. And obviously we all have feelings. Hey, every day you wake up with them, you go through a day with feelings, and go to bed with feelings. And the fact that we can’t talk about them in an open and honest way is is a problem, especially when the feelings are really strong, more difficult to manage.

“And people get stuck. They can’t talk about what’s going on. They get stuck. They channel these feelings into self-destructive behavior and hurt themselves or hurt others.  And so I think it’s important for all of us to continue our personal growth by learning how to have these difficult conversations and a more open and honest way. Well, part of this that we always talk about going to the gym, working out, losing weight or, you know, the physical body. Taking a yoga class. Right.

“But the reality is – the mind and body are very tightly connected. We know that very strong feelings held inside for a long time can cause a physical problem. Right. Anxiety or depression can manifest in things like high blood pressure or some other type of illness.

“I want people to understand that they can take care of their mental health the same way that they take care of their physical health. That it’s important for people to have routines around their mental health the same way they do their physical health. It’s not enough to eat healthy, and exercise. It’s also important to have a hobby that brings you joy. To listen to music or go to a museum. Practice meditation. There are so many different ways that we can release our feelings in a healthy way and learn to manage them. But we can’t do that if we don’t actually talk about what we are going through.”

First Lady Chirlane McCray recording Thrive podcast’s first episodes.

B: Who is the podcast for? Who are you trying to reach?

CM: “Well, I would say I think that it’s really hard to tell sometimes, in terms of an individual, where the need is greater because we’re all different.

“Somebody can be in a community that is, you know, affluent and be living very well, but have abusive parents or/and not have the kind of support that they need to develop healthy behaviors. On the other hand, somebody can be undocumented and be really threatened, but be surrounded by a loving, supportive family and have their needs met in a way that does not cause them to develop in an unhealthy way.

“That being said, of course, it is much more difficult for people who are immigrants now, especially depending on where they come from, especially where there is not a tradition of talking about feelings. And they have all these hurdles and obstacles to navigate, to make their way in a different city. I think it’s really, really hard. And in this environment where so many people are afraid of being identified as other, different, people are afraid of being deported, that’s just creating even more stress and anxiety for people who already have obstacles.

“So what we’re trying to do is to reach people where they are.  It may be a fearful or threatening thing to ask someone for help, to go to see someone they don’t know and talk about what they’re going through.

“But to be able to listen to a podcast in the comfort of your own headphones, and in privacy,  may bring some relief and some information, you know, connection to resources in a way that they would not have access to. There’s no one way to reach all the different populations of New York City. This is one way, but we’re trying with this podcast to reach people and let them know that there is always hope. If we help one person, the podcast will be a success.”

The first two episodes feature conversations with Dante de Blasio, where he interviews her, and Jodie Patterson, a Brooklyn neighbor, and advocate, author of The Bold World: A Memoir of Family and Transformation. You can subscribe to the podcast here or wherever you get yours -Spotify, Stitcher, and Apple Podcasts.

Thrive with Chirlane McCray is part of Brooklyn Free Speech, BRIC’s community podcast network program, which provides the borough’s residents with an opportunity to voice their hopes, dreams, and ideas to their communities. The Media Center offers a variety of free and affordable, high-quality film, TV, and podcasting courses, as well as state-of-the-art equipment, studios, and editing suites.


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