At Home With Maryse Kye | V17.
Maryse is not only a powerhouse model, she’s also a mental health advocate, and this conversation with her inspired our current partnership with The Loveland Foundation. She gets candid about her journey, why the mental health of Black women is still a taboo subject, and how serving her community (and therapy) helped her heal. Meet (and prepare to fall in love with) Maryse Kye.
My passion for advocating the importance of mental health stems from my own personal journey. After experiencing burnout during my junior year of college (yes, that is a young age), my recovery process has been tumultuous and one that I hope others can go through life without. It has been five years now since my first episode and with years of therapy and support from my closest ones, I’ve learned the importance of prioritizing and developing the skills needed to maintain my mental health. These skills that I have developed are ones that I wish I was educated on prior to the decline of my own mental health, and skills that I hope my peers and everyone really should be educated on how to cultivate and maintain one’s health.
WHAT IS YOUR DEFINITION OF MENTAL HEALTH? HAS IT EVOLVED OVER TIME? WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE NOW AND HOW DO YOU CULTIVATE IT DAILY?
There is no universal definition of mental health in my opinion as our own individual needs, boundaries, and happiness are all personal. For me personally, my mental health is about having a mind that is able to synchronize with my true self - my wants, my needs, my aspirations. I think that over the years the discussion has evolved, allowing people to be open about their struggles without the repercussions and the stigma that many faced before us. Taking care of my mind is a daily necessity. For me that means setting up a good sleep hygiene, daily exercise or time spent outdoors, limiting my screen time after 6 pm, and choosing peace in anything that might arise.
YOU MOVED TO THE US FROM BURKINA FASO WHEN YOU WERE YOUNG. DID YOU EXPERIENCE ANY CHALLENGES SEEKING MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES AS AN IMMIGRANT?
Absolutely. Mental health is a bit of a taboo subject in my culture and I believe that it is not necessarily because of the stigma attached to the difficulties those who suffer from mental health issues experience, but because of the strong sense of community that we lived by in my country. The customs and norms have been a robust system in keeping individuals connected and supported in the community - something that we lost while migrating to a different cultural environment. With a lack of conversation and knowledge surrounding mental health, you can imagine that my family and I were completely lost at not only the manifestations of mental health difficulties, but where to even begin to seek care. It took months of trying and advocating to finally receive care.
YOU MENTIONED YOU WORK WITH AN ORGANIZATION IN HARLEM THAT PERTAINS TO MENTAL HEALTH. CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT THEM AND DOES WORKING WITH THAT GROUP HELP FACILITATE YOUR OWN HEALING PROCESS?
Yes, I worked with the organization Vibrant in the Manhattan Borough based council area. Vibrant aims to bring awareness to the diverse and historically Black neighborhood of Harlem by providing resources to the community to address the issues and ending the stigma surrounding mental health. Serving this community has been personally rewarding. To be able to have important conversations and share the resources surrounding mental health to the youth of this community, to me is crucial in ensuring the wellbeing of the future generations of the community. I believe this initiative can educate and prevent others from experiencing some, if not all, of the struggle that I’ve experienced with my mental health, which is fulfilling.
IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST SOCIETAL AND/OR CULTURAL HURDLES WHEN IT COMES TO MENTAL HEALTH? HOW DOES THIS DIFFER FOR WOMEN OF COLOR SPECIFICALLY?
I think that recognizing mental health as a serious medical diagnosis - not something that effort, prayers, and ambitions can resolve and to understand that mental health difficulties are not just an “others” problem, we are all susceptible to it. Often times, women of color who experience mental health issues are often misunderstood, perceived as difficult and problematic, a narrative that I hope can end with the continued conversation surrounding mental health that we are having.
WHAT HAS HELPED YOU WITH SELF-ACCEPTANCE?
For the past five years I’ve worked with an amazing therapist whom I trust and is qualified to guide me through this difficult journey.
TAKING OWNERSHIP OF YOUR MENTAL HEALTH JOURNEY DEEPENED YOUR CONNECTION WITH YOURSELF, WHAT ABOUT WITH OTHER BLACK WOMEN?
The barriers that I have experienced while seeking proper and adequate care, made an already difficult system to navigate burdensome. It has made it even more obvious for me, how Black women are disproportionately dismissed and neglected when seeking medical care.
WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST PIECE OF ADVICE FOR SOMEONE THAT IS JUST STARTING TO SEEK RESOURCES ON THEIR MENTAL HEALTH JOURNEY?
Do not be discouraged if you haven’t found the right therapist and support system yet. Continue seeking and advocating for yourself, and don’t forget to lean on others for support. I think the presence of mental health organizations such as the Loveland Foundation and so many others on social media has raised awareness for the importance of mental care by providing the support to access these resources.
WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
Prioritize your self-care: sleep, time, your diet, exercise, and listen to your body. Nothing is achievable without health - and your mental health is of importance.
DO YOU HAVE A PRACTICE, MANTRA, OR A FAVORITE PHRASE/QUOTE THAT YOU TURN TO DURING TRYING TIMES?
I wish I had a mantra for you. But the words and support of my mother during these past few years are ingrained in me and what’s kept me going and keeps me going.
WHAT DOES "PERFECTLY UNDONE" MEAN TO YOU?
Perfection does not exist, therefore don’t look for it.
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