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Streaming Talk Series 'HBCU White House' Sets Season 3 Premiere While Focusing On Mental Health

As World Mental Health Day is recognized across the country, now more than ever, the Black community has fought to end the stigma of focusing on mental health while embracing vulnerability in friendships, relationships and with family.

Studies show that suicide is the second leading cause of death among Black men and women ages 15-to-24, while Black men are four times more likely to die of suicide. Despite making up 15% of the population, Black youth make up 37% of youth suicides.

There are many platforms that have taken on the mission to highlight the need for mental health services, therapy, and other forms of communication and visibility that help those in need. HBCU White House, the streaming talk series, is one of those platforms that is using media for good. Executive producer, Alvin J. Woods, recently spoke with The Quintessential Gentleman to discuss Season 3 of his talk show and how his platform continues to bring mental health to the forefront.

Can you tell us about any initiatives or episodes of HBCU White House that have focused on mental health and well-being within the HBCU community?

When preparing to launch the series at the start of 2021, our creative team wanted to develop a platform that would celebrate the aspirational narratives of minorities and underrepresented communities while being transparent about the myriad of challenges, we all face on a regular basis — including mental health and well-being.

We spent the entire first season working to “develop a personality” for the show and made mental health within the Black community a bedrock topic in episode three of the series back in April ’21. In that infancy episode, we interviewed a Black male clinical psychologist and author of an independent book that was designed to connect with minority boys who need to be heard in life. It was a thought-leading conversation with a physical figure not often associated with mental wellness, talking from a POV narrative of what he would have wanted to hear as a child.

That conversation about words of aspiration, encouragement, and ways to set goals – meant to target the parents of Black boys and teenagers – was responsible for one of the early streaming boosts of “HBCU White House.” It became clear that our platform could quickly fill a void as a much-needed avenue to champion mental wellness and other overlooked topics that are impacting HBCU communities.

Since then, a recurring wellness check has been incorporated into guest interviews with the intent to regularly chat about difficulties that we all can relate to, along with spotlighting methods to practice personal wellness.

What made you decide to speak out about mental health? Any obstacles you have faced to get to this point?

I’m a newbie in regards to deciding to speak about my own battle with mental health. Although I dealt with suicide ideation as a child and teenager, it wasn’t until my 40th birthday that I decided to speak my truth in hopes that a personal journey of hardship to success would motivate someone in need of that hopeful energy. Now, I’m steadfastly working to use my platform’s reach to advocate for an open dialogue about suicide prevention and mental health awareness for Black boys and Black men across America.

World Mental Health Day is a critical time to raise awareness about mental health challenges. How does "HBCU White House" contribute to this important conversation?

We’re using the lead-up to Season 3 of HBCU White House this fall to normalize an ongoing nonjudgmental conversation about suicide ideation and the need for community while dealing with mental health challenges.

As World Mental Health Day is celebrated each year on October 10th – we will use that day and others throughout the calendar year to keep a spotlight on suicide. Covid-19 created a vacuum era of uncertainty for people around the world – and ravished the mental well-being of so many. The overall intent of HBCU White House is to be purposeful, and building a safe space for Black boys and men is a primary purpose.

HBCU alumni and supporters form a unique and tight-knit community. How does the show address the mental health needs and concerns of this specific audience?

There’s no greater bond than that of an HBCU community but it’s time to get beyond only conversations about tailgating for homecoming or which college dominates the SWAC, MEAC, and other HBCU-focused athletic conferences.

Episodes feature ongoing interviews with entertainers, high-performance business owners, and industry thought leaders – including Black health and wellness specialists. Viewers of HBCU White House, many of whom are HBCU alumni, supporters, and friends, have helped us surpass 250K streams during our most recent season – a cycle of episodes that featured interviews with health and mental wellness executives that represent brands such as CourMed and the CDC Foundation, along with Dallas, TX. area family medical practices and other private companies.

Mental health stigma can be particularly challenging to overcome in certain communities. How does "HBCU White House" work to reduce the stigma around mental health within the HBCU community?

HBCU White House is committed to an ongoing effort to reduce mental health stigma.

Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among Black men and women ages 15-to-24 and Black men are four times more likely to die of suicide. Despite making up 15% of the population, Black youth make up 37% of suicides.

Life is hard. We all need help maintaining mental wellness. Insecurities are a launching pad for stigmas. It’s time that we stop allowing the insecurities, of people that don’t look like us, to dictate how we move as a greater community.

As an executive producer, my first step in being that change I wanted to see was allowing myself to be vulnerable enough to share my truth.

Could you share any stories or testimonials from your viewers or guests about how HBCU White House has impacted their mental health or inspired them to seek help when needed?

Most recently during a live discussion with non-profit organization, Black Men Crowned, my comments on learning how to “be gentle with yourself” as you navigate your mental wellness – really struck a chord with the host and virtual audience.

The world is filled with so much bitterness and past trauma. I urged the audience to “be gentle” with their inner network and allow space for nonjudgmental listening if a loved one or a friend comes to them with sensitive topics such as suicide ideation, mental health issues, and depression. We all should be listening to empathize and not analyze – especially when it comes to our Black youth and young adults.

Are there any upcoming episodes or plans to collaborate with mental health organizations?

Yes! Our team is working to connect with mental health organizations across America to support an HBCU mental check tour. The intent is to travel to some of the most impactful HBCUs throughout the country with a purposeful narrative of mental wellness check-ins. This pending tour would serve as a parallel way to supplement ongoing interviews with health and mental wellness executives and companies.

Given the diverse audience of HBCU White House, what strategies do you employ to ensure that mental health discussions are inclusive and relatable to all viewers?

Our executive production team takes the FUBU approach – for us, by us. Many of us are HBCU alumni and have a rich network of fellow classmates, business connections, and networks that support topics and conversations that directly affect the Black collegiate community. We’ve curated several focus groups and leadership roundtables to gauge what narratives should be primary, secondary, and tertiary to our streaming audience.

Can you provide insights into the show's efforts to support mental health awareness and suicide prevention, especially among HBCU students and recent graduates?

As a new endeavor – our team will be on the campus of Southern University and A&M College during homecoming ’23 for mental wellness check-ins associated with a scholarship raffle for undergrad students.

We will be using this opportunity at the only Black college system in the country as a litmus test to determine how to build out even more impactful content to build season 3 – which begins streaming in October 2023.

HBCU White House covers various topics and features influential guests. How do you prioritize mental health discussions within the broader scope of the show's content?

Regardless of the guest’s brand messaging, we often ask “What’s something on your social media timeline that should be newsworthy to our audience?” During our pre-interviews, we encourage our influential guests to use the opportunity to share something that is on their heart and mind --- and often times they speak on mental health or the challenges faced by Black Men (and or women dependent on the guest). This question has become stable within interview segments because of the honesty and openness that the opportunity creates.

Finally, what message or advice would you like to share with HBCU alumni, supporters, and friends regarding the importance of mental health during World Mental Health Day and beyond?

The consistent thought of suicide is a disease and can become so intertwined with a person's physical health. If you notice any signs of mental unwellness in a loved one – handle the situation with an urgent tenderness to affirm that you support and care.

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