Honoring Juneteenth 2021 - Mikyala Akers, LCPC
This Juneteenth, we want to acknowledge and recognize the historic, systematic injustices and oppressive discrimination that Black Americans continued to face. While we find joy in celebrating the progress that has taken place, we also know there is work to be done. At ERC Pathlight, we want to work in solidarity to be a catalyst for change in our hearts and in our communities, working to build a world where all individuals can live without fear.
Mikyala Akers, LCPC, shares how her grandmother has inspired her life, why she feels called to work in mental health, and what advice she has for the next generation.
What does Juneteenth mean to you?
Juneteenth means Emancipation Day for slaves, i.e. the celebration of the ending of slavery in the United States by announcing the end of the Civil War.
How do you acknowledge and celebrate this historical day each year?
I don’t celebrate Juneteenth. I have only become familiar with it over the past few years or so. This is interesting as I minored in African American studies in undergraduate school over 15 years ago.
Who is your biggest inspiration in life and why?
My biggest inspiration in life would be my paternal grandmother. She was able to support her three children as a single parent throughout much of her life. She managed to work for the federal and Washington, DC, government in various capacities at a time when it was very difficult for an African American woman to do so. She made it through the ranks to a relatively high grade for the federal government in the 1960s through the 1980s. While doing so, she managed to raise three exceptional humans (including my father).
Why do you feel called to work in mental health care?
Prior to my senior year in high school, I wanted to be an attorney. I possess an amazing ability to debate with others and am passionate about my beliefs. Senior year in high school, I enrolled in a psychology course taught by the school guidance counselor. Between the course material and the endearing personality of the guidance counselor, I fell in love with psychology and did not turn back. I then obtained my various degrees in college and grad school related to psychology and counseling, as well as gained a number of years of clinical experience. With each step, I have found myself more and more drawn to the field.
How do you support your own mental health and unwind after a long week?
I am a strong advocate for self-care. Despite teleworking, I ensure that I complete my ADLs daily. I also walk for several miles a few days per week near my neighborhood. Occasionally, I go for hikes on the weekends at local, state and national parks. Finally, I frequently lean on my support system (my significant other, parents and friends) to de-stress.
What have you learned in the past year about yourself while experiencing the Covid-19 pandemic and the national reckoning around racism in America?
I have realized how delicate life can be, which only reinforces the significance of those that I value in my life. I have learned that my family and friends are of the utmost importance to me above all else. I have learned the significance of spending time with them including via phone, FaceTime, etc.
To comment on the “national reckoning around racism in America,” I believe that the issues with racism over the past year have become more open to the nation (or at least those in the nation that don’t experience racism) but they are not new issues. I know that the issues have existed for as long as my existence and for many years before. Only time will tell what comes of this increase in awareness for others.
What’s one personal goal you have for 2021 that you’re able to share with us?
I want to continue to spend time with my immediate family (significant other and children), as often as I possibly can. I want to really enjoy the time that we can spend together, from dinners with one another to vacations, and not take that time for granted.
What is one thing not many people know about you that may surprise them?
I am an adventure-seeker/risk-taker. I love to go white water rafting, ziplining, hiking, etc.
What would you tell your 18-year-old self that would have better prepared you for your life today?
I would tell my 18-year-old self to do everything as you will. I don’t believe that I would be where I am today if I did anything differently. I don’t know that I could have been better prepared for my life today as the steps that I took led me to where I am in my personal, professional and any other domain of life. I am in a good space in all.
What advice would you give to the next generation?
I would tell the next generation to be comfortable with who they are (i.e. with their life choices and the steps that they take to reach their future). I would encourage them to believe in themselves and to not allow others to discourage their dreams or their path to their dreams. Part of being free is the ability to be yourself without judgement or pain, particularly that which is self-inflicted.