One of the first things I do when returning home from a trip away is to stop by my local coffee shop and get my favorite iced tea. Do I go for the tea… well no, not really. No matter where I live, I have been doing this for years because it is not really about the beverage, it is about the people. The folks that work at my local coffee shop, whether it was when I lived in Pasadena, California, Rockville, Maryland or now in Hollywood, California, make the day just a bit brighter.
This story isn’t about the iconic and ubiquitous coffee shop, coffee or tea. It is about “Connection”. Away for a week in Trieste, Italy, I return to my local coffee shop to be greeted by London – there we are – Black Girl Magic! She knows my name, I know hers.
When I first moved to Hollywood, I was looking for someone to do my hair – ok, black folks know about our tresses and finding that perfect someone who can work with our pride and joy, our pain and our kitchens (translation – the back of our head where hair gets super messy, frizzy and tangled) … who do I ask? London at my neighborhood coffee hangout. She welcomes people, makes the coffee, and the tea, provides service with a smile and makes sure I get my hair done did (as I say) by someone she trusts.
I was so happy to see her when I got back from Italy because she embodies the motto, creed of the shop– Moments of Connection. Every time you interact with a person – it is an incredible moment to make a positive welcoming connection. We need more of that in the world.
In Trieste, Italy, I did not find my favorite coffee shop (though there were lots of other iconic American fast food and brand name stores), but what I did discover reminded me of when I visit my neighborhood coffee spot and run into someone like London. I found powerful moments of connection. A community mental health program that lives, breathes, walks, and talks moments of connection and welcoming. Mental health services are grounded in strong values, in a philosophy that starts with freedom first, and is relentless about relationships and trust. Each moment with a person is a moment to make a positive connection. No matter how complex the needs of the person – each person is met first as a human being, not as an illness or a problem to be fixed. The focus on freedom first, helping people to remain in the community of their choice, connected to others with meaning and purpose in their lives. There is no restraint, no coercion, no police – just people. People to people – connected in the most humane of ways.
I wish this is a story I can tell in one quick blog, it isn’t. I went to visit an incredible community mental health program in Trieste. It is world renowned and is a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Mental Health. Would you like to know more? If so, join me on a visceral journey of sights, sounds and words to experience the city, the history, the people that help contextualize the work done in Trieste Italy. There will be many moments of connections as we journey forth. I have my supersize iced green tea….so grab your favorite beverage, snacks and buckle up (oh right, this is about no restraints – no need to buckle up) – just get cozy as we take this amazing voyage.
We won’t find any unicorns pooping fairy dust, puffy cotton candy streets or rainbows greeting people into the city – which is what I started to believe as I heard others tell their tale of visiting this “great magical” place. So, what is it?
Next stop – Trieste, Italy – where ‘Da vicino, nessuno e’ normale’ – up close, nobody is normal.
Keris Jän Myrick is the Chief, Peer Services for the Los Angeles County of Mental Health. Ms Myrick was formerly the Director of the Office of Consumer Affairs for the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) of the United States Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Ms. Myrick is a leading mental health advocate and executive, known for her innovative and inclusive approach to mental health reform and the public disclosure of her personal story. Ms. Myrick has over 15 years of experience in mental health services innovations, transformation, and peer workforce development. Ms. Myrick was previously President and CEO of Project Return Peer Support Network, a Los Angeles-based, peer-run nonprofit, the President of National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and served as a consultant to the American Psychiatric Association (APA) Office of Minority and National Affairs (OMNA).
Ms. Myrick’s is featured in the CalMHSA documentary A New State of Mind: Ending the Stigma of Mental Illness and her personal story was featured in the New York Times series: Lives Restored, which told the personal narratives of several professionals living with mental health issues. Ms. Myrick’s belief in the strength of relationships to aid in recovery was featured in an interview in the Psychiatric Times: Advocate Attributes Recovery to Strength of Therapeutic Alliance and in the Los Angeles Times. With her unique combination of executive skills and personal lived experience in the mental health system, Ms. Myrick is an in-demand national trainer and keynote speaker. She is known for her collaborative style and innovative “whole person” approach to mental health care.
Ms. Myrick has a Master of Science degree in organizational psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology of Alliant International University. Her Master of Business Administration degree, with an emphasis on marketing, is from Case Western Reserve