“Feel love.” with Beau Henderson & Jeff Walker

Feel love. Everyday I make sure that I feel and share love with my wife and my children. I make sure we have physical hugs and contact. I make sure that nobody ever goes to be being upset without the chance to talk about what is going on. As a part of my series about […]

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Feel love. Everyday I make sure that I feel and share love with my wife and my children. I make sure we have physical hugs and contact. I make sure that nobody ever goes to be being upset without the chance to talk about what is going on.

As a part of my series about “Mental Health Champions” helping to promote mental wellness, I had the pleasure to interview Jeff Walker.

Jeff is a Rhyme Master, Rap Coach, and Qualified Mental Health Professional with a Masters in Educational Psychology and Counseling. Jeff uses his unique healing techniques with clients across the world for over 15 years. He is the creator of Rhymecology, which uses the power of hip-hop lyrics and culture to help people express, discover, and re-create their stories. Jeff’s products include his books, “Rhymecology: Using Hip-Hop to Heal” and “The Art of Hip-Hop Lyrics”, as well as the new “The Rhymecology Game, all of which connect therapists, counselors, and teachers, to the youth of whom they serve. Jeff has been featured on ESPN, 60 Minutes, Fox Sports, Inside the NBA, HuffPost, and more.

Rhymecology® helps people express, discover, and create themselves through the study and power of hip-hop lyrics and culture.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?

I grew up as a child of Kodak Film, which was in international film company my Dad worked for. So we moved, not countries, but CONTINENTS almost every two years until I was 12. So I had to adjust to languages, cultures and people on the fly often. When my parents split up, I found my self in Northern California trying to fit in with kids who had lived their since they were born. Eventually I found sports and music and was able to gain self esteem and a sense of self.

You are currently leading a social impact organization that is helping to promote mental wellness. Can you tell us a bit about what you or your organization are trying to address?

Rhymecology promotes mental health wellness in creative ways, specifically using the written and spoken word. We specialize in Hip-Hop as a healing tool for youth who are into or affected by Hip-Hop culture. We address past trauma, setting and achieving goals, critical thinking about Hip-Hop music and self-reflection through rap and rhyme.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

Rhymecology was created because I have been working as a mental health counselor in Los Angeles at the same time as maintaining a career in music and performance. I saw a need in the field where most therapists and counselors did not have the connection or knowledge of hip-hop, which can be such and important connection to make with our impressionable youth. So Rhymecology in a sense is the bridge between the youth being served and the workers serving them.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?

The moment was when I wrote a spoken word poem called “Therapy” in which I play two characters, a therapist and a client. I have them going back and forth in rhyme. I was channeling my clients as well as therapist peers. When I performed this piece, both at mental health agencies and in Hollywood, I often had the audience in tears saying they had never heard something like that before. It cemented my idea that the hip-hop and mental health world need to connect.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

I always go back to this story of three “at-risk” youth who were all brothers. They lived with their aunt and would never talk about their biological mother. When they learned that I rap and heard my music, they said they wanted to try it. I helped them but asked them to write something about their mother. The story was incredible, about “moving the desert plants with our hands, hiding in the sands” and how their mother eventually went to jail, “but we couldn’t afford bail, we felt like we had failed”…etc. That story always jumps out and was also the “final trigger”.

None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?

The ex-president of where I worked as a mental health professional was very encouraging. He told would meet with me every month or so and encourage me. This was back when my books were put together with staples and my videos were shaky and grainy. He always told me to keep at it and to go on my own since “I’m the only one here making any real money anyway” he would say about himself and the agency.

According to Mental Health America’s report, over 44 million Americans have a mental health condition. Yet there’s still a stigma about mental illness. Can you share a few reasons you think this is so?

Being a man, I will answer this from a male point of view. The stigma stems from the machismo attitude that we can just push through things and not have to FEEL them. Remember that the last generation, our parents and especially their parents were in and coming out of wars. They were surviving and building this country with their hands…most didn’t go to therapy, especially the men. I think that that stigma still hangs around and falsely people still think it is “not manly” or “weak” to go talk to someone about your issues. And because of that there are many with unresolved mental health issues.

In your experience, what should a) individuals b) society, and c) the government do to better support people suffering from mental illness?

I feel like if more celebrities, athletes or house hold names talked about the therapeutic services they had received, that it would be more accepted to receive help. So many receive them but most keep it as a secret and I think that dark secret looms over the average person thinking they should not talk about it either.

If the government valued mental health workers as people saving lives then they could increase the salaries of those out in the field and would in turn have more motivated and better candidates to be working with our most vulnerable. For the average community mental health worker, it is barely a livable wage, despite the fact we risk our lives and go into some of the most dangerous areas in the country.

What are your 6 strategies you use to promote your own wellbeing and mental wellness? Can you please give a story or example for each?

I write. Almost daily I grab a pen and notebook and let my thoughts flow. Most often it turns into a rhyme or a song but the impetuous is that I need to express myself.

I meditate. I take time each morning to stretch and breathe. Focus on nothing but the breath.

I practice the attitude of gratitude. Each morning before my feet hit the floor I make sure to say how grateful I am that I woke up and that I have a chance to live life today.

I ensure self care. Days are hectic, having children, work, wife, dog, music, writing etc…so when I need a small nap, when I need to shut off from the day, I do that. I may turn on a show. I may grab a magazine or book…whatever it is, I make sure that I allow myself a few minutes of self care.

Physical Health. It can be one of the hardest things for a middle aged adult to do but what I tell myself all the time is, “no one ever worked out and said ‘Damn, I wish I didn’t do that”. 100% of the time you feel good after, not many things can boast that success rate.

Feel love. Everyday I make sure that I feel and share love with my wife and my children. I make sure we have physical hugs and contact. I make sure that nobody ever goes to be being upset without the chance to talk about what is going on.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a mental health champion?

I enjoy books and podcasts that talk about the Law of Attraction, which is basically whatever you focus on, good or bad, you will be manifesting more of. It is so easy to get caught up in what is wrong rather then be excited to find the solution. The movie “The Secret” and “What the Bleep Do We Know” were big for me at a time.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

I had a sales job. Cold calling people trying to get them to buy things. It was torture for me. I realized that I wanted a job where people where actually happy to hear my voice, happy that I was calling and offering solutions. That in turn made me more happy and motivated. There is often less money in mental health as compared to other careers but knowing that you have a skill that can help others in their darkest time, is priceless.



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