Dr. Charryse Johnson visits Rowan for World Mental Health Day

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World Mental Health Day Speaker Dr. Charryse Johnson spoke to students about mental health in the Eynon Ballroom about what it means to be well. - Contributor / Grace Reed

In observance of World Mental Health Day on Tuesday, Oct. 10, Rowan’s Women’s Alliance Network (WAN), hosted a speaking event and book signing with Dr. Charryse Johnson.

Johnson is a North Carolina-based psychotherapist specializing in trauma. She is the founder of Jade Integrative Counseling and Wellness as well as an accomplished speaker and published author. A copy of her book “Expired Mindsets” was included with the purchase of a ticket.

The event was held in Chamberlain’s second-floor Eynon ballroom on Rowan’s main Glassboro campus. Doors opened at 9:15 a.m. and before long the venue was packed with Rowan students, staff, and mental health advocates.

Nicole Surace is a program assistant for chemical engineering at Rowan as well as the special events and programming chair for the Women’s Alliance Network.

“Mental health is very, very important to me,” Surace said, “I personally listen to Dr. Johnson twice a week, and I just felt her energy and love everything that she has to say. And I couldn’t think of anything better to do than to share that energy with the Rowan campus.” 

The Whit had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Johnson prior to her talk about her accomplishments and what inspired her to enter the profession. 

“You know, I was always the kind of child who paid attention to people who weren’t being included. You know, like, if I saw someone sitting off to the side, I would gently walk over and just kind of get to know them,” Johnson said. “I had a lot of different traumatic experiences of being bullied and being violated. I grew up in a very difficult situation, grew up in poverty, lots of different things with a father who wasn’t in my life. So then, as I grew up, me recognizing like, ‘Hey, if I don’t kind of figure out some of this stuff, it’s going to impact the way I show up with other people.’”

Johnson’s talk focused on one question: “What does it mean to be well?”

Dr. Johnson spent time analyzing the way that society tends to define the concepts of wellness and personal strength. She implored the audience to reflect on their own lives and determine whether they were truly satisfied or if they had just accepted their situation because others told them they should.

She also spoke out against the notion of placing people into boxes and using diagnoses as an excuse to dismiss people or ignore their stories. Johnson said, “If you think about an iceberg, the top of an iceberg, you only can see the tip.”

Johnson explored her question using her “ABCs of well-being,” an acronym for “awareness, boundaries, community.” Dr. Johnson went through each word, defining it carefully, providing examples, and sharing anecdotes from her own life.

“Wellness is living a life I don’t need to escape,” Johnson said.

Throughout the talk, Johnson emphasized mindfulness, self-love, and the importance of surrounding oneself with people who respect and value them as they are. “I want you to know, in case no one has told you or ever tells you, that you matter, not because of what you do, but just because.”

One way she suggested integrating these beliefs and practices into their lives is to check on themselves every day, by placing one hand on their chest and breathing every day. She paused and everyone in the room did it with her.

“Peace is your birthright,” Johnson said. 

The morning concluded with a short Q-and-A session followed by a book signing and photo op held just outside the ballroom.

Amanda Bonino is a 27-year-old student who also works in Rowan’s Office of Accessibility. When asked why she chose to attend, Bonino said, “I believe advocating for your own mental health is the gateway to helping others.”

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