Speaker Links Civil Rights and Mental Health

Photo by Hope Patti

Sheila Robinson-Kiss, a motivational speaker and author, hosted an event called “Civil Rights, Caffeine and Twitter: A Mental Connection” in the Alumni Lounges on Tuesday.

“So what does mental health have to do with civil rights? Everything,” said Robinson-Kiss. 

Robinson-Kiss shared the story of her grandfather, who lived during the height of the civil rights movement, and detailed the struggles he faced while trying to live a fulfilled life and love the person he fell for, all because of the color of his skin.  

“It changed him … we have to do what it takes to fight the good fight,” continued Robinson-Kiss. 

The main intent of her presentation was to teach useful tools for dealing with stress and maintaining good mental health, as well as to stomp out the many stigmas associated with mental illness, not just at Ramapo, but across the country. According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, 1 in 5 adults in the United States experience mental illness in a given year. 

Audience participation played a major role at this event, as blue envelopes were distributed to students and faculty members that contained the stories of different civil rights leaders, such as Medgar Evers, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, Nelson Mandela and others. Participants each took a turn standing up to read their story out loud, while emotional music played in the background. 

Since social media has such a strong influence in today’s world, Robinson-Kiss then asked, “What would these leaders say today via Facebook or Twitter? What advice would they give to people who are struggling presently?” 

The presentation concluded with practical strategies that promote daily balance in our lives. Robinson-Kiss educated the audience on the benefits of the EFT tapping points, also referred to as an “emotional freedom technique.” EFT tapping is a psychological acupuncture technique to improve emotional health and is recommended to anyone who suffers from stress and anxiety. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy was the second strategy Robinson-Kiss introduced to the audience, asking them to ask themselves, “what do I need to accept about myself or this situation? What am I committed to?” 

Robinson-Kiss has more than 20 years of experience under her belt as a motivational speaker and has written numerous books including “They’re Not Coming… An Evolutionary Analysis of the Reasons Relationships Leave You Feeling Ditched Today and How to Adapt to the Good Life” and “The Stepping Off Point: The Power of Creating a Healing Exit.” Robinson-Kiss also posts a variety of self-help videos on her self-titled YouTube channel, as well as on Amazon. 

When asked what sparked an her interest in coming to Ramapo, Robinson-Kiss said she has always loved the College, and when she was approached by Tamika Quick, the assistant director for equity and diversity programs, she was happy to do it. 

“Anytime I can talk about mental health, I will do it,” said Robinson-Kiss.