On June 30th, the Los Angeles Sparks hosted Mental Health Awareness Day events, prior to a Sunday afternoon win at home against the Chicago Sky. The Sparks continued to work in partnership with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health (LACDMH) and LA County Department of Military and Veteran Affairs (LACDMVA) to promote Mental Health Awareness initiatives throughout the Los Angeles community.
The Sparks are in the midst of a year-long campaign called “Spark the True You” that educates, assists, and activates a growing community of support across Southern California for women in active duty, women veterans, and their families who are looking for ways to be successful and achieve their ultimate physical, spiritual, emotional, mental health and well-being goals.
Additionally, the campaign aims to normalize the experience of mental illness and other related health issues that continue to hold many women in active duty and veterans back from reaching out for assistance and taking advantage of available resources.
“Over a year ago we embarked on this mental health journey,” Sparks President and COO Danita Johnson said. “Twelve months later and this has completely evolved into something new and something that can truly make a difference and an impact. We’re so proud of the work that we are doing.”
The day included a pregame meditation instructed by meditation app Stop Breathe and Think at 9:45 a.m. Meditation was followed by Yoga on the Staples Center court hosted by CorePower Yoga and Gaiam Yoga Mats at 10:45. Fifty plus fans of all ages participated in the festivities. Meditation and yoga on the Court allowed for veterans and fans to de-stress and find a release.
To complete the pregame festivities, the Sparks hosted a mental health and wellness discussion including five panelists: Stephanie Stone, Crystal Williams, Lauren Trosclair Duncan, Laura Illig, and Jamie Price.
Curley L. Bonds served as the moderator for the panel. He is the Chief Deputy Director, Clinical Operations for the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. Bonds has also served as Medical Director for Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services.
“One in five women in America at some point has a mental health disorder, disproportionately affected by depression and anxiety,” Bonds said. “There is a double burden sometimes when you are both a working mother and a veteran.”
Stephanie Stone is the Chief Deputy Director for the Los Angeles County Department of Military and Veteran Affairs. She also served 20 years in the Navy and has 14 years of non-profit experience. Stone is was the first woman to serve as the Chair of the Los Angeles Mayor’s Military and now serves as Chair for Mayor Garcetti’s Veterans Advisory Council. Stone leads the council’s attention on housing homeless veterans, and preventing veteran suicide.
Crystal Williams is a psychiatric social worker for LACDMH. Williams is a veteran of the US Air Force where she deployed as a Security Forces member and is a California Army National Guard veteran. Her work as a psychiatric social worker serves homeless veterans with other-than-honorable discharges.
Lauren Trosclair Duncan is the Los Angeles regional director and works alongside the American Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces Los Angeles. Lauren sits on Military and Veteran boards to include: US Vets-Inglewood and Long Beach, LA County Childcare Planning Committee and Los Angeles County MVA Women Veteran Advisory Council.
Laura Illig serves as the Director of Community Relations for NAMI Whittier and NAM East San Gabriel Valley. She has participated with NAMI for over 10 years. Serving as the Executive Director at NAMI Pomona Valley, Education Coordinator at NAMI Los Angeles County Council, as a Basics Education Teacher and State Trainer, and Ending the Silence presenter and trainer.
Jamie Price is a wellness expert & Co-Founder of Stop, Breathe & Think. Stop, Breathe & Think is an emotional wellness app that recommends short personalized meditations tuned to your emotions. Price’s intention is to create a positive change in our world. She was one of the founders of Tools For Peace™ has spent the last 17 years developing curriculum and teaching mindfulness and meditation to at risk youth.
The panel members were asked a variety of questions in regard to military women and veterans and mental health awareness, with one of the questions touching on the concept of transitioning from military to civilian life.
“As women veterans we often don’t get recognized for our service,” Stone said. “If you walk into a clinic and you’ve been struggling with your disciplinary challenge based off of your military experience…and the first person you see when you walk in the door says, ‘is your sponsor with you? Is your husband or son in the military?’”
Stone added: “We have to take that extra step to come out and that is just one additional challenge that adds to the complications.”
After the event, participants watched the Sparks blow out the Chicago Sky 94-69.