Jackson, Mississippi was an incredible tour stop on our Team Happy journey to creating safe spaces for life-saving conversations.

Team Happy touched down Tuesday morning, did a superhero quick-change in the airport restroom, and then headed out on the first leg of our adventure – a welcome luncheon at the Old Capitol Inn, a refined boutique hotel with tons of historical prestige and personality. The guest list was a who’s who of doctors, deans, politicians, and powerful mental health advocates. I cried quietly at least three times; I stopped counting after that last go-round when Senator Hillman Frazier presented me with a Proclamation from the Lieutenant Governor and the Mississippi State Senate. I was bee-yond humbled. This work we do in the suicide prevention and mental health realm isn’t always acknowledged; the conversations are just beginning to happen in homes across our communities. I was proud of the larger room for understanding the significance of the mental health and mental fitness initiative.

Later that day, we hopped into the batmobile, drove across town, and attended a welcome social that included folks who’d flown in for the big Summit happening the next day. Some were personal friends of the organizer, others were old colleagues of hers, and all brought warm hugs and abundant love to this Chicago native team.

The next day began with a big vegan breakfast and a Stigma workshop I customized just for them. The attendees participated in role play, partner work, and storytelling. Everyone quickly realized that they’d all experienced stigma and relating it to their personal experiences was groundbreaking for so many of them. I particularly enjoyed watching as they closed their eyes and transported themselves to their personal Happy Places during the Visualization exercise – one of the “Incredible Ten” Mental Fitness steps in my workbook. The role-play activity was dynamic and the scholars rocked it like they were in an advanced acting class. They demonstrated Stigma in Action and got ear-splitting applause when they were done. I was a proud workshop-teacher mama. Evaluations from the workshop were over the moon and proved that we exceeded expectations in our work to educate, entertain, and emPOWER.

After another wardrobe quick-change, it was time for the big luncheon and for my keynote address. It was an honor to be the speaker for the 5th Annual Black Family Summit. I gave them my whole heart and the standing ovation that followed made all the prep work that much more worthwhile. And I didn’t cry during the part where I talk about my life-changing, transformational “AHA, THIS IS WHERE I GET OFF THE CRAZY TRAIN” moment right before I checked myself back into the psych ward under suicide watch for the last time. The room was in tears and I stepped off stage and was swept up in a hugs and more hugs. I looked around and damage was being done at the “Who Moved My Happy?” Mental Fitness Pop-Up Store where they gobbled up the Tees, DVDs, and workbooks so they could take a piece of me home with them.

Rounding out the tour stop with a radio interview at WJNT the next morning along with an impromptu breakfast gathering was the perfect finishing touch.

Thank you, Jackson, for a rockin’ good time where we touched souls and saved lives. Resources were shared, life-saving connections were made, and emPOWERment was the word for the day! See you in November!

And always remember, I LOVE YOU… and I don’t have to know you to love you.

xo, Erika