Mental Health Today: Still Have a Stigma Up Your Ass?
Kelechi Ubozoh, who can be spotted around Oakland by night seeking out the (second) best dancer in the place and challenging them to a cinematic quality dance-off, is also a seeker by day. With much the same fervor and compassion, Kelechi works for PEERS (Peers Envisioning and Engaging in Recovery Services), an Oakland-based non-profit that works to empower individuals and communities to see that a “mental health diagnosis is not a destiny.” As a Statewide Project Coordinator, Ms. Ubozoh seeks out and supports programs in California that are engaged in mental health improvement.
A New-Yorker\Atlantan by birth, she has an epic BS meter and says “Oh Chile!” In New York, Kelechi was a newspaper reporter. While interviewing homeless families in New York, Ms. Ubozoh became entrenched in the systematic issues of mental health. Naturally, this inspired a cross-coastal move to make a change. Her current focus is on sexual wellness within the realm of mental health. She has worked with other woman to create a workshop for empowering women, which she debuted at Alternatives, a national mental health conference. This started an important conversation around women’s sexual empowerment, especially around the idea of reclaiming pleasure. The workshop will soon be presented for a second time at Cal State East Bay and continue to move around the Bay Area. As all passionate, driven people with big aspirations and even bigger hearts, there have been obstacles along Kelechi’s path. One that has left its mark is the experience she had after disclosing about a traumatic experience in a previous workplace. She was fired for disclosing. Though a weak, crappy move on the part of the company and the individuals involved, this pain and anguish held a real lesson on fear and discrimination, which further fueled a move to the more progressive state of California to influence change through mental health advocacy.
For other women who want to advance in their careers, love what they do and bring home the bacon, Kelechi says: “Identify allies and people whose work you admire and get to know them. Attend networking events and try to insert yourself in places with people who can help you grow. There is a huge difference between a job and a career. I’ve had both. There are times where you need to work a day job to pay bills and work on your career on the side. Ultimately, you have to prioritize what is important to you.”
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