Recovered Dignity
By Sandy Rodgers
Common Ground
April 6, 2009

I had the pleasure of presenting the workshop “Recovered Dignity, Anti-Stigma Campaign” today at Common Ground with a group of 35 consumers. Actually I had come to be placed on the calendar, only to find there was no Facilitator scheduled for today. So I jumped at the opportunity to present my workshop. God is always in control!

We began the session with first celebrating my 4th Anniversary of working with Common Ground. Unknowingly, one of the participants placed the candle we light at the start of each session in the middle of the circle. Holy Spirit was already at work! I advised the group I would explain the significance of the candle placement later in the presentation. The group was given a brief overview of the events of the 3 day Institute. I then explained the connection, as I saw it, with having received a positive diagnoses and mental health, stating that without exception I felt each person would experience some form of mental health challenge. I added that for the last 7 or 8 years I had been intrigued and had come to meet persons working with or studying the effects of “Unresolved Emotional Traumas” of 5 and 6 generations later. My conclusion is that those traumas are sent deeper into our cores as we refuse to deal with and/or heal them.

Now is the perfect opportunity to change and heal that negative energy and make our positive contributions to humanity. To whom much is given, much is required, so as they are being educated it is their responsibility to go out and educate others especially their immediate families. I also told my story of being diagnosed and what it felt like to me. Later in the session another admitted to recently being released from a mental health hospital, which he had chosen not to share before today, due to his preconceived expectations of what others would say to him.

The DVD, Recovered Dignity with a foreword by former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, was then shown. I had warned the group to be prepared to become very emotional while watching the DVD and made sure we had tissues available for use. I gave some words connecting mental health with other family connotations such as ‘what happens in the family (house) stays in the family’, even if that is the source of one’s pains, being told that one’s feelings are not adequate or invalid thus causing one the desire to numb their authenticity, most times with the aide of drugs or alcohol or another addictive behavior. Reference was made to the advancements and improvements in Mental Health services. The floor was then opened for the group to engage in the discussion.

Many told of their personal accounts and struggles with the stigma of having to work with a mental health doctor, of hiding the fact they were involved in therapy or any of the other negative implications of being thought of as ‘being crazy’. Some told of family members who were ostracized by immediate family and suffered for long years, verbal abuse and not being accepted. Tears were shed as two gave detailed accounts of their upbringing and parental/family dysfunction. Another admitted he does not share his inner most feelings due to his belief that others are not concerned with what is really happening in his life and so he keeps it all locked inside of him and needs to talk about it. Most were able to purge their congested condition of stigmatization and recover their own dignity.

Afterwards, several came to me and gave their sincere gestures of appreciation for bringing light to the subject, that the discussion helped them to understand their current situation and gave them an understanding and education around the topic of mental health. This was an excellent introduction to bring about dignity with regard to mental health.

I explained why the candle had been placed in the center of the circle, it represented all who had died without human dignity and respect, of being a number without a name.

We ended with prayer. The prayer that I gave was simple and short...

“I hold the energy of Love and Healing for the nameless individuals and their families buried at Milledgeville State Hospital”

Author's Bio: 

With a lifelong pursuit of learning, community strengthening and multi-cultural sensitivity, Sandy Rodgers is professional, motivated, dependable, ambitious and focused on social reform while mastering interpersonal and leadership skills. She combines her spirituality with her corporate experience creating a unique blend of inspiring change by empowering people.

She is a Youth Advocate in which her contributions began with being actively involved in both Boy Scouts of America serving as Area Commissioner and Girl Scouts of America; Youth Motivation Task Force – Los Angeles 1992; UBITQUITDUS Modeling and Referral Service, helping to build and expand the organization in the Southern California area; Nu Vision Modeling and Entertainment offering inner city youth opportunities to learn and perform throughout the city; worked with the NAACP Youth Department; Motivational Speaker, Atlanta Regional Youth Detention Center; serve on the current Board and is the Conference Facilitator of The World Is Yours Youth Rally in Ft. Worth Texas, currently serving more than 3000 youth annually.

Ms. Rodgers legacy of community service has been global in her efforts to outreach internationally. She began in 1993 coordinating the USA-Berlin Initiative in Los Angeles bridging the divide of artists of various ethnic backgrounds to produce both music and an International Peace Mural in riot torn Los Angeles. Currently she serves as the Matron of African Heritage Youth Club in Ghana West Africa. She is organizer of the Total Wellness Project, addressing the psycho-social needs of children affected by AIDS in Africa, with a team of professionals across the United States. Ms. Rodgers received the International Peace Prize in 2007.

In the health, healing and recovery fields, Ms Rodgers is a fully trained and certified Asst. Residential Director with AA, her tenure includes Last House on the Block and The Bridge for the Needy in Los Angeles. Currently she serves as a weekly group facilitator with Common Ground of AIDS Alliance for Faith and Health and a Level II Reiki Practioner.

Board and community affiliations include Sow As We Grow, Cobb Community Collaborative, Near Southeast CDC – Ft. Worth Texas, Shoot The Hoop, SpunKey Learning Concepts – Phoenix Arizona, Impact Life Global, Southside Ministerial Association, Metropolitan Executive and Professional Registry and NAFE – National Association of Female Executives.

Her work has been documented in the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Sentinel, Black Gold Magazine, Compton Bulletin, LA Watts Times, Black Business Pages, Herald Examiner, Marietta Daily Journal, Who’s Who In Black Atlanta – Spiritual Leaders and radio station KKDA in Fort Worth Texas.