Guest Contributor: Kyle Toon
Life Wellness Advocate and Coach
What does Black Mental Wellness mean to you?
Black Mental Wellness is about adopting a paradigm shift that emphasizes the importance of consistent, ritualistic psychological, behavioral, emotional, social, spiritual, and financial habits and skills that informs maximal development and optimal performance. Black Mental Wellness is an enduring pursuit to achieve Black joy, happiness, self-determination, racial and ethnic pride, and develop the appropriate lens to see - without distortion, with visual acuity, the strengths and capabilities of individuals as well as the Black collective.
How do you promote change and well-being in the Black community?
Firstly, I am pursing a MSW for the purposes of achieving clinical licensure and subsequently build a holistic healthcare brand and brick and mortar company that specializes in various therapeutic and treatment modalities for the African Diaspora. Secondly, I authored a poetry anthology titled "The Depths Below" that underscores the personal reactions and reflections to identity reconstruction, dismantling the residual effect of miseducation, conceptualizing emotionally-charged experiences, and paying homage to Black excellence. Finally, I developed a podcast (https://anchor.fm/gracefullyimperfect) and life wellness platform (https://www.embraceourimperfection.com/home/life-coaching) that opens the door of communication, community, and connection to the everyday Black survivor seeking solace and belonging.
What are some ways that you promote mental health and wellness through your area of expertise?
I leverage personal experiences, academic learning, self-development tools, and wisdom achieved through mindful meditation and self-reflection to guide my footsteps, intellectualize my mind, open my heart, and gently formulate words with compassion and empathy. Poetry, podcasting, life wellness advocacy, and continuous outreach are the approaches to develop human connection with the African Diaspora and extend arms of brotherhood, harmony, and unity.
How can we encourage more people to seek mental health treatment?
Mental health treatment must be accessible and affordable to lower income, poverty-stricken Black individuals, families, and couples within our community. Mental health professionals and educators within the community must unify for the purposes of achieving equity and developing solutions that will extend an helping hand to hard to reach areas.
What are your recommendations for ending stigma in the Black community?
More storytelling of our experiences with hardships, distress, and despair. We are a people that value oratory, proverbs, allegories, and anecdotes. The more we breathe these subjective experiences into the collective consciousness of the Black community, I believe a paradigm shift will occur.
What wellness strategies do you think should be given more attention to within the Black community? Are there any reasons why you think they are not given more attention?
Psychotherapy and counseling are essential to our mental and emotional wellness. The stigmatization and self-constructed barriers are due to centuries of mistrust, suspicions, and experiences of wrong-doing by medical professionals. Aligning oneself with a mental health professional - a bona fide stranger - is a fearful conception. Erasure of fear and worry is based on Black mental health professionals willingness and ability to advocate, educate, and re-orientate.
Kyle Toon is a native of St. Mary’s County, Lexington Park, MD. He is an Army Warrant Officer, in transition, with 13 years of military experience with extensive training in organizational leadership, program management, mentorship, and building cohesive teams. He has served on combat tours in Afghanistan, operational tours in Germany and Korea, and one strategic assignment in Kuwait. Recently, he requested administrative discharge from the Army based on conscientious objection and has shared his personal story with NPOs advocating for dissenters and objectors (https://centeronconscience.org/the-delicacy-and-fragility-of-lifehit-me-kyle-toons-journey-to-conscientious-objection/).
He channels creativity and capacity to serve in his newly formed podcast, Gracefully Imperfect, a podcast for the everyday Black survivor; emphasizing the paradigm shift from mental health to mental healthiness, and leveraging expository and poetry to make life experiences make sense. Kyle also created a Life Wellness Advocacy & Coaching program for everyday survivors seeking practical, social, emotional, and spiritual support in the form of immersive empathy (https://www.embraceourimperfection.com/home).
Growing up, Kyle envisioned becoming a poet at the age of 9 years old after witnessing his mother write multiple poems for special events. Poetry has been a therapeutic outlet for Kyle during times of bereavement, depression, and struggle with personal identity. He is an exponent of prose poetry - which culminated in the production of his first personally-crafted poetry anthology titled "The Depths Below" (https://form.jotform.com/203216673775157).
He currently lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado with his wife of 10 years and three children. He has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Phoenix and is actively pursuing a Master of Science in Social Work from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs.