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MENTAL HEALTH WORKSHOPS: Shining a light on inclusive spaces where you belong

People tell me all the time “Sheletta, you’re like a Timex watch, you take a licking and keep on ticking – you took lemons and turned them into lemonade. You had three kids with autism and a lot of hurdles, and now you have multiple best-selling books.” And you know what I tell them? It’s resilience.


We all have it. Whether we think we do or not. Even during the darkest times, we can’t always expect other people to encourage us. We must remind our own selves to hold onto resilience.

Not just during mental health awareness month, but all the time.


Because it will bring us back to the laughter. Doesn’t matter what’s going on around me – I always hold true to what’s going on inside of me. That’s why I continue to share my story with other people.


People often ask me “how do I start telling my story – what do I do?” I tell them to learn from people I’ve learned from, including Mr. Jody McPhearson, a dad, entrepreneur, public speaker, third-generation war veteran, youth advocate and founder of Inclusive Spaces, an organization that creates spaces and opportunities for people to belong.


Whether it’s his TedX speeches or his workshops, he is sharing knowledge to help people hold onto that resilience and begin to share their stories. During Mental Health Awareness Month, McPhearson is partnering with the good folks in Washington County to host multiple FREE self-advocacy, interactive workshops for adults and teens. The workshops are part of the county’s WellSpring Project that will help you build resilience and self-value.


Both of the “Self-Advocacy: Lifting Your Voice, an Act of Self Love” workshops led by Jody McPhearson are open to Washington County residents. His next workshop is for all ages on Wednesday, May 29, 6 p.m. at Park Grove Library in Cottage Grove. Then he has a special workshop for teens on Thursday, May 30, 2:30-4 p.m. at the Oakdale Library.


“These workshops are designed to help us find a space where we are safe to tell our story and through that story, unpack the things that are preventing us from moving forward,” says McPhearson. “And through those variants we will find common ground, which is the connectedness. We are so much more alike than we think.”


Workshop attendees can expect to connect with other people, talk about self-value and how to develop and nurture it, share pieces of their story with community members and participate in guided reflections and a small storytelling session. The workshops will also address cultural biases and diversity in the spaces, and how storytelling and self-love can help create a safe space for others to do the same.


McPhearson recognizes it’s a blessing to find your people, and that’s why he created Inclusive Spaces groups. “As we went through pandemic, I began to really look at people differently and saw how much people were hurting and being left out of spaces, and I know that emotion, that feeling throughout my life where I’ve been qualified but haven’t been able to find a space where I belong,” said McPhearson. “So Inclusive Spaces’ was born out of that – how do you begin to co-create spaces with people and help them belong. Through workshops and engaging curriculum for young people and adults, we begin to build that with them, not for them.”


Washington County is doing tremendous work around mental health in May and beyond. “There’s a need all over and right here in our community to make sure people can find space to heal, get better and deal w/their mental state,” McPhearson added. “Within that, it’s a space of loving themselves. One of the greatest challenges for us is loving others when we don’t always love ourselves. There are some mornings when we wake up and it’s a challenge. Something stops us from feeling that.”


McPhearson reflects that recently, he received one of his greatest compliments. At the conclusion of a workshop, a woman remained seated for quite some time, and when he asked if everything was ok, she said, “I am wonderful. I don’t want to leave because you have created a holy space here.”


Visit to register for Jody’s two upcoming

workshops for Washington County residents, and to learn more about other free workshops offered by the county during Mental Health Awareness Month.


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