T-Kea Blackman is a mental health advocate and communications professional. She’s the founder of Fireflies Unite, a mental health media and communications start-up company. Its mission is to bring light into darkness (just like the fireflies) by sharing the stories of those who live and THRIVE with a mental illness in communities of color through its podcast, blog, speaking engagements, workshops, events, research, a forthcoming book, digital magazine and a documentary.
PBJ: Have you ever come to a conclusion as to why you tried to end your life?
T-Kea: I was diagnosed with major depressive and generalized anxiety disorders, and I felt hopeless. Due to unresolved childhood trauma and the challenges of life, I was in so much emotional pain that eventually turned into being numb. I felt as though life was not worth living.
PBJ: Do you feel like that is all in your past? Are you in a good place?
T-Kea: I am a work in progress like many of us. I wouldn’t stay all is in the past because a mental illness does not go away over night. I wake up every morning committed to my mental and emotional well being. But, I have done a lot of work in therapy, in-patient and partial hospitalization programs. I have tools to help me stay well such as setting boundaries, getting rest, taking my medication and attending therapy weekly. I can also identify my triggers and when I am not feeling well. Honestly, I am the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. With the support of God, family, friends, therapist and psychiatrist, I feel confident about my recovery.
PBJ: Why did you start podcasting?
T-Kea: I started podcasting because I didn’t see podcasts from people of color who lived with a mental illness. I only saw podcasts from mental health professionals such as therapists. It was liberating when I began to live in my truth and share my story. Telling my story helps me heal and I wanted to give others a voice too. In addition, I desire to see mental health a part of everyday conversation among people of color.
PBJ: Tell us how you got started. Take us all the steps you went through.
T-Kea: I got started by asking one podcaster the type of mic she used. Then I looked for free audio editing software and a podcast host site online. I created a format, introduction, started building my website and interviewing guests, and over the course of four months I launched my podcast.
PBJ: What is your goal with the show?
T-Kea: Fireflies Unite With Kea is a weekly podcast and its mission is to bring light into darkness (just like the fireflies) by sharing the stories of people of color who live and THRIVE with a mental illness and to normalize the mental health conversation.
PBJ: Explain the name.
T-Kea: Fireflies have lights and come out at night. When people are battling a mental illness they isolate, feel like an outcast and essentially feel left in the dark. By talking about mental illness and mental health we are uniting to give individuals a voice and bringing light to an issue that society tends to shy away from.
PBJ: What has becoming a podcaster done for you?
T-Kea: Becoming a podcaster has given with the opportunity to build a community and make an impact. It brings me joy when I receive messages from those who listen to the podcast and feel encouraged, seek treatment or understand a love one better with battles with mental illness. Podcasting has allowed me to create something from scratch that I can call my own and I am proud of it.
PBJ: How have you gotten the word out?
T-Kea: I’ve gotten the word out via social media, my email list and by speaking at events and a variety of mental health training.
PBJ: What kind of feedback have you gotten?
T-Kea: Listeners often tell me the podcast helps them to check in on their mental health, learn the benefits of therapy, self care and admit that they are not okay. Listeners are enjoy receiving resources, look at mental health differently and more importantly, they like how vulnerable and honest I am about my struggles with mental illness.
PBJ: Tell us about all the equipment you use, who you host with and how you edit the show
T-Kea: I use only a few items. I have a SUMGOTT microphone hat I purchased from Amazon, Audacity to edit, host with BuzzSprout and Soundcloud.
Where you can find T-Kea: