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Homewood introduces new mindfulness program to the neighborhood

People sit around a table while one man speaks.
Homewood Children's Village
The weekly mindfulness training is for parents and children in Homewood.

The Homewood Children’s Village, Awaken Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh’s Center on Race and Social Problems have created mindfulness training for those caring for children and families in Homewood.

This program will help participants reduce their burnout, secondary trauma, stress and compassion fatigue. Stephanie Romero, the founder and executive director of Awaken Pittsburgh, a local nonprofit that works to bring mindfulness meditation to support mental health in all populations, compared their mental health approach to how public health services work with diseases like mumps and measles.

“Everybody almost gets a vaccine that’s preventative, that helps support health and well-being so that they don’t have to go to their general practitioner with mumps and measles,” Romero said. "So what we’re trying to bring to Homewood and other communities that we work with is those preventative, sustaining practices that help us build resilience and mental health before we get the mumps and the measles.”

According to the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, mental health services in the U.S. are insufficient, despite more than half of Americans seeking help. Romero sees this in her work field.

“I have a friend who’s a therapist, and she, about a year ago, told me she had a six-month waiting list, and she’s actually received comments from people on her waitlist that they would pay her to bump them up in the waitlist,” Romero said. “They’re so desperate for a therapist that it’s almost like a bribe.”

Homewood Children’s Village President and CEO Walter Lewis said having access to a therapist is important.

“Just the connection with the mental health professional is so valuable because for some people, they’ve never done that, and it can be the start of something really positive if it’s something that families are really interested in and excited about,” Lewis said.

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In addition to mental health resources, the program hopes to bring people together. James Huguley, the founder and lead of the Parenting While Black Program at the University of Pittsburgh, said the power of healthy relationships can help propel people forward in their wellness journeys.

“In the parenting world specifically, we also highlight several pathways to healing that they can engage in so mindfulness certainly therapeutic interventions and supports absolutely and destigmatizing that for families because there is often a stigma around that,” Huguley said. “One of the beautiful things that happens in these spaces is that people come together, and they see they’re not the only one dealing with certain challenges.”

Lewis, Huguley and Romero hope this program brings a better sense of community to Homewood.

“We see the kids come back, we see the parents come back, and so I think it gives us the opportunity to really kind of see those long term gains,” Lewis said.

More information on the program can be found here.

Isabella is a rising senior at Duquesne University majoring in multiplatform journalism and communications and is a division one rower on their women's rowing team. She's had many articles published as the Features Editor for Duquesne's student-run newspaper, The Duquesne Duke. In her free time, she enjoys running, watching new shows and reading.