As part of our ongoing commitment to our Diversity Matters Initiative, KVC Prairie Ridge children’s psychiatric hospital and residential treatment center chose to create programming and groups throughout the month of June acknowledging Caribbean American Heritage Month and LGBT Pride Month. This diversity was celebrated to support, educate, and uplift both clients and staff.
Caribbean American Heritage Month
To engage clients and employees in National Caribbean American Heritage Month, KVC Prairie Ridge Hospital’s Diversity Matters Committee conducted art and music therapy, cooking groups and a performance by local reggae band called “Deeper Reality.”
Clients receiving psychiatric treatment at KVC Prairie Ridge take part in weekly cooking classes, and to celebrate Caribbean heritage, our dietician Megan Brinker taught youth to make mango sorbet. To make your own, follow the recipe below.
Mango Sorbet Recipe
- 1 package frozen mangoes or fresh mangoes frozen and cubed.
- Limes (for juice and zest)
- Simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar melted together).
- Add frozen mangoes, zest of 1 lime, juice of 1 lime, and 3 tablespoons of simple syrup to food processor.
- Blend until smooth.
- Taste the sorbet, add more lime juice or simple syrup as needed.
- Freeze for 1 hour (or until hardened to your liking).
Krista Heller, art therapist, planned a group to celebrate Caribbean American Heritage month around the festival of Junkanoo in the Bahamas. She began groups by leading the discussion about Caribbean culture and the festival of Junkanoo, which is a celebration held in January and includes a parade, elaborate costumes, dance and music. Clients participating in the group identified different festivals and how art can be used in culture. Krista then instructed the clients to create a Bahamian mask using foam masks, markers, feathers, and sequins to decorate while listening to music from Junkanoo. The group ended with a discussion to process what they learned and show off their artwork.
To wrap up the Caribbean American Heritage celebrations, the Diversity Matters Committee brought in local Reggae band, “Deeper Reality,” for a special performance for our clients and employees. During the performance, employees and clients were encouraged to express themselves through movement via dancing and hula hooping.
LGBT Pride Month
It was important for us to recognize the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer and/or questioning (LGBTQ) community as the National Alliance on Mental Illness states, “the LGBTQ community is at a higher risk for suicide because we lack peer support and face harassment, mental health conditions and substance abuse.”
- For LGBTQ people aged 10-24, suicide is one of the leading causes of death.
- LGBTQ youth are 4 times more likely and questioning youth are 3 times more likely to attempt suicide, experience suicidal thoughts or engage in self-harm than straight people.
- Between 38-65% of transgender individuals experience suicidal ideation.
It is estimated that about 20-30% of LGBTQ people abuse substances compared to about 9% of the general population, and estimated that 25% of LGBTQ people abuse alcohol compared to 5-10% of the general population. While exposure to violence affects the health and education of any young person, LGBTQ youth are more likely than their non-LGBTQ peers to feel unsafe or uncomfortable as a result of their sexual orientation.
To ensure our clients had an understanding of the importance and reasoning behind recognizing LGBT Pride Month celebrations, members of our clinical team created groups to ensure active learning and participation. Music therapist Rachel Rotert facilitated groups around LGBT pride and awareness throughout the month by focusing her groups on respect and acknowledgement of the effects of discrimination and bullying. She began her groups by acknowledging that June is LGBT Pride Month.
Rachel then distributed drums and lyric sheets for “Same Love,” a song by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, and taught the xylophone riff to the song. Group participants were able to try the xylophone solo as Rachel led her groups in a discussion of the significance of working together to support and lift up peers that may be different than us. She continued her groups by discussing the lyrics to this song “Don’t Laugh at Me” by Mark Wills to explore the personal experience of someone who has been disrespected, misjudged or bullied. Rachel ended her groups with a high energy version of “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga to create an inclusive celebration of all people regardless of sexual orientation, gender identification, religion, or ability.
Krista Heller, KVC Prairie Ridge’s art therapist, led groups around art and activism. To start the group, she discussed what symbolized the LGBTQ community, such as the rainbow, and discussed how this image symbolizes a safe and accepting space for members of this community. Krista led the group in a discussion on how they could use art to advocate for and support themselves and then instructed the groups to design a symbol which represents themselves.
“The purpose of this art therapy group was to promote insightfulness, allow the clients to express themselves, and to create positive communication with self and others,” said Krista Heller.
Stephanie Mott, President and Executive Director of the Kansas Statewide Transgender Education Project (http://kstep.org), spoke to KVC Prairie Ridge employees telling her story as a transgender woman. In an open and honest format presented to our employees, Stephanie discussed her life’s journey from struggling with suicidal ideation and substance abuse, to finding a safe place to practice faith and receive mental health services.
On finding a therapist who changed her life, Stephanie said, “He did the one thing I needed. He created a space where I could talk about what I needed to talk about and not feel judged. That was the first time I thought it was possible for me to live authentically.”
Stephanie then discussed her successes which included going back to school and earning her bachelor’s degree in social work in 2014 and her master’s degree in social work this past May 2016. Stephanie discussed the struggles that transgender individuals often face including homelessness, substance abuse, violence, and suicide. Her advice for our staff was to “validate their identity,” when dealing with transgender or questioning clients and to “create a safe space” for those clients.
Our Diversity Matters Committee has made it a priority to continue to celebrate diversity and has plans participate in other month-long celebrations such as Hispanic Heritage Month, Native American Heritage Month and more. Visit our Diversity Matters webpage to stay up-to-date on what the committee is doing!
KVC Prairie Ridge is a children’s psychiatric hospital and residential treatment center located in Kansas City, Kansas. Each year, we serve thousands of children and adolescents who have mental and behavioral health challenges or are dealing with the effects of adversity and trauma. Learn more about us and how we help.
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