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Spotlight Interview

Guest Contributor:

Nicole Russell, Author

Co-Founder and Executive Director of Precious Dreams Foundation

CEO of Pitch House Productions

What does Black Mental Wellness mean to you?

Black Mental Wellness equates to Black excellence. If we invest in our wellness and the wellness of others, we make ourselves available to serve and advance our communities. At my nonprofit, Precious Dreams Foundation, a majority of the youth we serve in NYC are Black children. In America, Black children represent double the percentage of the foster care population than they do in the general child population. The trauma, abandonment and/or abuse that these children face only adds to the everyday challenges we all face as people. Our children need new systems that prioritize their mental health and collectively we need to normalize support for parents that are struggling or don't have the mental capacity to care for their children. It's not enough for some of us to be well, we need to support our full community starting with our children.

What wellness strategies do you think should be given more attention within the Black community? Are there any reasons why you think they are not given more attention?

According to The World Health Organization, 1 in 4 people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. The biggest challenge with coping or receiving care comes from a lack of understanding around the issue. Mental health education and social/emotional learning should be taught in every school across the United States. The education would encourage more people to have open dialogue around the issues that silently harm or hold them back. We have to start there. When Black people understand mental disorders and disabilities, they have a better understanding of how to love and show up for others.

What are your top 5 favorite wellness and self-care strategies?

  1. Journaling. This year I released "Write Here & Tear Journal", to encourage people to write their biggest secrets, grieve and be vulnerable in a safe place. The act of paper tearing not only prevents people from ever seeing your words, it also lifts your mood and provides relief.

  2. Acknowledging my breath. I sit for at least 2 min each day and take long deep breaths. With each exhale I express gratitude for my wellness, fresh air, functioning organs...everything that's working in my life and in my favor.

  3. Music. I've been using music to help regulate my emotions since I was a child. I have a playlist for everything and I name them accordingly. I have a "After 9PM Driving" and a "Clean The House on Sunday" playlist that always make me feel good.

  4. Great scents. I'm obsessed with Palo Santo and Lavender Incense.

  5. A good stretch on a hard surface. The motivation for me is to stretch out the stress but of course stretching is also great for improving blood circulation and preventing injury.

Guest Contributor

Nicole Russell is a bestselling author and lead advocate for mental health, human rights and the well being of children. She serves as the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Precious Dreams Foundation, a non-profit teaching thousands of displaced youth to self-comfort, and CEO of Pitch House Productions, her consulting agency dedicated to educating corporations on best practices for serving vulnerable populations. Since the inception of Precious Dreams Foundation, Nicole Russell’s efforts have been recognized by O, The Oprah Magazine, GLAMOUR Magazine as their “Everyday Hero of the Year,” and Observer as one of their “Top 20 Heroes Under 40.” She also recently received a Walmart Community Playmaker Award. In 2018, Nicole released a YA non-fiction book entitled Everything A Band-Aid Can’t Fix: a teen’s guide to healing and dealing with life. The Amazon #1 New Release, has since been added to the curriculum of middle and high schools nationwide. The book features stories from influential figures like Gary Vaynerchuck who claims, “A lot of adults have a disconnect and forget how emotionally challenging it can be when you can't control your world. Nicole has somehow managed to stay in that space...she gets [teenagers].”

To commemorate the second anniversary of EABACF, Nicole will release a companion journal entitled Write Here & Tear, encouraging writers to write honestly and tear away at their frustrations. While her first book was for young adults, Nicole designed this journal to help everyone self-comfort. Nicole co-founded the “Precious Dreams Foundation,” in 2012, and over the past eight years has made a global impact on thousands of youth transitioning through homeless shelters, detention centers or foster care by teaching self-care and empowering them to focus on their dreams.

Over the past few years, under the direction of Russell, PDF has expanded its outreach from New York and developed local chapters in California, Florida, Maryland, Illinois and Washington, DC. With roots in youth development, Nicole aspires to teach the world how to serve thoughtfully and effectively. Her commitment to providing and creating items that help youth self-comfort uplifts the next generation to put their mental health first and successfully tackle the issues of the world.

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