Mental Health is our emotional, psychological and social well being. I am an advocate for mental health and believe that we should discuss this topic more in our communities. Mental Illness is a taboo subject but it is actually more common and prevalent than we would like to acknowledge. Mental Illness is an illness that affects the way we think, behave, act and interact with others.
Factors Contributing to Mental Illness
- Substance Use/ Abuse
- History of Family Illness
- Biological Factors such as genes and brain chemistry
- Experiences such as Abuse, Trauma, Loss of Significant Family/Friends
5 Most Common Mental Illness
- Bipolar Affective Disorder
- Schizophrenia & other Psychosis
Interview with Leroy Tyler
Tiffany: This topic is super important because we rarely talk about how our mental health can affect us. Check out the interview below as Leroy and I discuss mental health and traveling. Leroy is lucky because he works at the airport. So even when he is not traveling he still has the opportunity to see airplanes flying daily.
Tiffany: Can you tell me about yourself?
Leroy: My name is Leroy Tyler. I’m 29 years old, avid traveler, lover of photography, food, and all about embracing other cultures. I’ve been to 29 countries on 6 continents (everyone except Antarctica), donated my left kidney to my father in 2012, and avid roller coaster enthusiast.
Tiffany: Why do you think that the black community doesn’t like to talk about mental illness?
Leroy: In the black community, having a mental illness is a sign of weakness. There was this generational toxic mindset of “whatever happens in this house, stays in this house”, making it hard to open up.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Tiffany: Do you feel like black men don’t talk about mental health because they have to be strong or don’t want to be deemed as “crazy”?
Leroy: Yes. As stated previously, we’re taught that mental health is a sign of weakness, and we’re accused of wanting attention. That could be further from the truth. We don’t need any sort of instant gratification from it. Truth is, we need help too. You can be on top of the world and still feel alone.
Tiffany: What do you feel is a contributing factor to your depression?
Leroy: Losing my mother as a teenager.
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Tiffany: What coping mechanisms do you use?
Leroy: As someone who struggles immensely with depression, I want to be a beacon of hope for others suffering. It used to be very difficult talking about it because of how I was raised. As I got older, it’s gotten way easier, and more comfortable to talk about because I know I’m not alone on this struggle. My coping mechanisms include traveling, random street photography, reading philosophy (mostly Plato and Socrates), and playing Dance Dance Revolution.
Tiffany: Are you currently seeing a therapist? If not why or do you plan to?
Leroy: I’m not currently seeing a therapist, but that will change sooner than later. I honestly just don’t have the time with a busy work schedule. I need to modify it because my mental health comes first.
Tiffany: How has traveling helped your mental health?
Leroy: It’s helped my mental health because it’s given me a sense of adventure. It’s allowed to me meet people from all walks of life, seeing how they live, what they eat. It gives me a sense of euphoria, allowing me to be (temporarily) free.
Tiffany: How do you handle traveling with mental illness?
Leroy: I meditate in my room every day. When traveling, I start my day by off by telling myself that “today will be a great day”, and seize the opportunity in whatever city I’m in.
I also converse with the locals and get to know them. It helps me gravitate towards learning more about the cultural aspects of where I am in the world. It takes my mind off of any negativity going on in my head.
Tiffany: What has been your favorite travel destination and why?
Leroy: 10 years ago, I went on my first solo trip. I have an emotional connection with Australia. When I was 20 years old, I had no direction and did not know what I wanted to with my life. That trip honestly saved my life. I’ve been back 4x and spent a whole year living there in 2013. Australia has given me a newfound appreciation for life, and the world around me. It gave birth to the traveler I am today.
Tiffany: Thank you for being open and vulnerable as we delved into your personal life. I am happy that you have chosen to share in hopes of inspiring others to share their stories while traveling the world. Next time we talk, I hope you will be able to share information about your therapist who has assisted you in dealing with the loss of your
5 Reasons why traveling is good for your mental health
- Physical Activity is increased– I always seem to walk more and even shed pounds.
- Travel increases your human interaction with others– I love interacting with people.
- It can alleviate seasonal depression– If you live in NYC, plan a trip to the Caribbean Islands during the winter.
- The opportunity to explore new cultures and have new experiences– My favorite part about traveling is trying something new.
- It can reduce stress and create happiness– Travel is my happy place and I feel less stressed when in a new environment.
7 Tips on supporting mental health while traveling
- Keep in touch with family and friends.
- Practice deep breathing, meditation, and exercise.
- Don’t forget to pack your medications in your carry on bag.
- Make sure your itinerary includes time for rest and relaxation.
- Gratitude: Focus on positive things in life and or about your trip.
- Bring items that will possibly relieve stress such as a journal and stress ball.
- Talk to your therapist before leaving and or see about teletherapy if needed while traveling.