The first Get Ya Mind Festival is in the works, aimed at celebrating the end of Minority Mental Health Awareness Month Saturday.
The festival is meant to break down the barriers that often prevent people of color and underrepresented groups from seeking help with mental health issues. Blake Cressey, the founder of the festival and owner of Tasty Treat Food Truck and Restaurant, hopes the fest will bring awareness and access to services while removing the cultural stigma that often impedes minorities’ access to mental health services.
For Cressey, mental health awareness is more than just another reason to have a festival. The issue is personal. She recounted witnessing many people close to her who are dealing with untreated mental health issues, often as a result of traumatic events that are all to common in urban communities.
The numbers back up Cressey’s real-life experience. Despite the fact that racial and ethnic groups experience mental illness at similar rates, minorities receive mental health services at a much lower rate. When compared with their non-Hispanic white counterparts, African-Americans receive services at a 50% lower rate, Hispanics or Latinos at a 60% lower rate, and Asian Americans at a 70% lower rate, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Cressey explained how people often use the phrase “get ya mind right” as a temporary fix meant to gloss over real issues. The name of the festival is meant to reclaim this phrase and change the meaning to encourage people to stop and authentically check in on their own mental health, as well as the mental health of loved ones.
“Shoot, I had to ‘get my mind right’ on the drive over here,” Blake half-jokingly admits as we sat and talked together in the middle of her popular restaurant. “Everybody, no matter what their position in society, needs to check in on themselves, and check often. People so often recognize and treat physical health issues, but the mental side of our health is just as important, maybe even more so. ”
Cressey is well aware of the many obstacles minorities face when trying to get professional help. The cultural stigma around mental health, the lack of access, lower-quality care, and lack of insurance coverage are just a few of the amplified obstacles that prevent minorities from seeking out proper care. She hopes Saturday will be the start of overcoming these obstacles.
The Get Ya Mind Right festival plans to bring New Orleans together to do what we do best — eat great food, enjoy live music, cool down with a snowball, and care for one another — all while breaking down these obstacles that prevent minorities from seeking mental health services.
“It’s also an education issue. Minorities don’t know about the services that are out there,” Blake explained. “All too often, people turn to unhealthy ways of coping with mental health issues; alcohol, drugs, lashing out, isolating themselves. That’s all some people know. I want people to know all of the ways they can get real help.”
Cressey hopes to see everyone Saturday, because, as the website for the National Alliance on Mental Illness states, “Taking on the challenges of mental health conditions, health coverage and the stigma of mental illness requires all of us.”
There will be walk-in clinics, Medicaid applications to receive services, free food from the Tasty Treat Food Truck, snoballs, a live performance by Young Pro, and much more. Cressey also knows how I love her food and drinks (I have probably gone to eat at Tasty Treat one too many times), so she was sure to let me know that they are going to have their signature punch available — Crawfish Juice.
Get Ya Mind Right Festival will take place from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, July 27th, in the 2200 block of Pauger Street (between N. Claiborne Avenue and N. Robertson Street).