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Mental Health Champions: How Achea Redd is aiming to end the stigma associated with seeking mental health care, especially as a woman of color

As we know mental illness is the tale as old as time, however it is very complex and layered. Meaning, it’s not the easiest to diagnose and treat. Nor is it easy to understand why mental illness even occurs. Naturally, people fear what they don’t understand. To many people still believe that mental illness or […]

As we know mental illness is the tale as old as time, however it is very complex and layered. Meaning, it’s not the easiest to diagnose and treat. Nor is it easy to understand why mental illness even occurs. Naturally, people fear what they don’t understand. To many people still believe that mental illness or disorders are a choice and the topic alone is very uncomfortable for people. Ironically, its actually the same with what we are going through now with systemic racism. Been around for years, but just because we ignore it doesn’t mean it goes away.


For my series on strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Achea Redd.

Achea Redd, wife of NBA legend and Olympian Michael Redd, suffered from eating disorders throughout her teens and was diagnosed with depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder in 2016. Ashamed of her condition, Achea hid it, which exacerbated her issues to the point of a full-blown breakdown.

With the help of her therapist, doctors and loved ones, Achea recovered and thrived — but suffered setbacks yet again after undergoing a full hysterectomy in 2019, which sent her hormones awry and triggered her. Thankfully, Achea is thriving now and seeks to help end the stigma associated with seeking mental health care, especially as a woman of color.

She is founder of Real Girls FART (Fearless, Authentic, Rescuer, Trailblazer) and author of Be Free. Be You and the upcoming Authentic You.


Thank you for joining 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?

Upper middle class, a Buckeye, religious, preacher’s kid

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

I’ve always been into psychology and even considered changing my major in school. But it wasn’t until I actually had a breakdown in 2016 and received the diagnosis of anxiety and depression disorders that I really felt like this was what I was supposed to do with my life.

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?

I think for me it was more of a series of events. My original plan was to start my blog just to document my journey from diagnosis to recovery. When women started reading it and could relate to what I was saying it gave me a boost. I think when I started to get messages from the women telling me I was giving them the courage they needed to get help was when I decided I needed to keep talking and writing.

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?

As we know mental illness is the tale as old as time, however it is very complex and layered. Meaning, it’s not the easiest to diagnose and treat. Nor is it easy to understand why mental illness even occurs. Naturally, people fear what they don’t understand. To many people still believe that mental illness or disorders are a choice and the topic alone is very uncomfortable for people. Ironically, its actually the same with what we are going through now with systemic racism. Been around for years, but just because we ignore it doesn’t mean it goes away.

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

I would love to see the working class tax payers get a better plan on the health insurance for mental healthcare. I think that the patient should get to go to the therapist of their choice instead having a list to pick from and I think the coverage should be unlimited until the doctor or therapist signs off that things are better. After therapy has concluded the patients are opted into a group setting to prevent relapse. Additionally, I think that Black Americans should receive free mental health treatment due to the socioeconomic disparities with the community as well as the generational trauma that has occurred from the enslavement/Jim Crow Era and now police brutality affecting our community most.

How has your health been affected by mental health and what have you done to help with it?

Before being officially diagnosed I suffered from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Spastic Colon, and Migraines. As I have gotten older, I now have moments of higher blood pressure when I am having a period of high anxiety.

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?

1.Cry it out — crying resets your brain and sometimes it just feels good to have a good cry. I cried a lot during the lockdown and each time I felt better.

2. Nap — also rests your brain. If I am irritable which usually means I am anxious I will find time to take a nap. Usually when I wake up I feel refreshed and more clear-minded.

3.Say what you need to say — when I have been triggered or someone has made me mad, I write my feeling out in the form of a letter, email, or text. I revise it 3 times to make sure the anger is gone. By the 3rd version, I’m ready to send. Once I send, I feel lighter because I no longer have in my head what I wanted to say to defend myself. It is now on the other person to respond.

4. Exercise — walking or bike riding is amazing for producing dopamine. It’s better than any pill you could ever take.

5. Escape — Take some time to watch a tried and true movie that always makes you feel better after you’ve watched it.

6. Prayer/meditation — Do I really need to say more? This is my go to probably first. There is something about prayer that grounds me. Perhaps I am connecting with a higher power who knows all. That in itself gives me confidence that things will get better at some point.

How have you been able to overcome fear and pain associated with mental health to live your best life?

All of the above, plus therapy and medication. And I must note that I haven’t overcome fear, but rather I have made the conscious decision to be scared but do whatever needs to be done even if I’m scared.

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?

Hmmmm…that’s a tough one. When it comes to my mental health journey, I have been the trailblazer in my circle. Outside of my therapists and God, it was just me tapping in to my inner strength and then from that others have started their own journeys.

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

Anything Brene Brown or Melody Beattie — but I have to admit I don’t listen to a lot of people. I do my work in therapy and take what I’ve learned and make it fit my life. I am careful not to have a lot of outside noise because I am aware that this is very much my personal journey.

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?

Get to know yourself first, then from there find that one thing that sets your soul on fire, learn everything you can about it, and wield your knowledge like a weapon to change the world.

How can our readers follow you online?

@achearedd on IG or realgirlsfart.com to sign up for the newsletter for blog updates

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