Monroe Howard-Shackelford is a Licensed Therapist, motivational speaker and educator best known for his work as a life coach and advocate for mental health awareness. Monroe has translated his passion for education into a career spanning more than 15 years that has increased learning opportunities for students in both New York City and California, empowering youth, men of color and members of the LGBTQIA community in those regions. Inspired by his own diagnosis of major depressive disorder, he is driven to destigmatize mental health and promote the upliftment of black men and youth.
Monroe holds a Bachelor of Science degree from California State University, Sacramento, and a dual Masters in Social Work and Public Administration from New York University. He hosts a weekly live show/podcast “The Naked Truth Experience” which celebrates marginalized individuals and the communities they represent.
1. What inspired you to pursue a career in social work and mental health?
I am inspired mainly by my journey with my mental health and wellness. I’ve traversed some difficult times battling, understanding, appreciating, and improving my mental wellness, and it has given me an intimate perspective that ultimately informs my practice. As I grow and develop in my knowledge and understanding of who I am, authentically, and how I relate to this world, I feel I am called to support people on their journeys to do the same.
2. How do you identify, and what is your experience as it relates to intersectionality?
I identify as a Black, cis-gender, gay man whose foundational belief system and spiritual practices are inspired by the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. For years, the intersections of each one of these salient identities caused me much grief and confusion. I was taught to believe that they could not co-exist and that accepting one would require the rejection of another, mainly when it came to my sexuality and spirituality. I have since evolved to a deeper understanding of each aspect of my identity, as it relates to me, which has developed into a celebration of their coexistence.
3. What do you wish someone had told you when you were younger?
You are more than enough, just as you are!
4. How do you balance self-care and advocacy?
This is a tough one because we often are bombarded with messages that perpetuate negative connotations of putting yourself first. I struggle with the word balance because I often experience it as an imbalance which then, in turn, prompts me to swing the pendulum in the opposite direction. What is most important to me is an awareness of when the imbalance between the two is taking a toll on my physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional state of being to do something to improve my condition.
5. What helps you to overcome life’s challenges?
First and foremost, my spiritual beliefs and the acceptance of my God-given power that lies within. It is this foundation that I begin with and often must revisit as I navigate challenges in my life. Second and yet so vital is the love, strength, and power derived from the community of people that I am blessed with in this life. These individuals are consistent sources of encouragement, support and often reflect the parts of me that I may struggle to see while experiencing a challenge. My belief in a power granted from a source greater than myself and the community that exists to remind me of how powerful and loved I truly am is how to make it through!
6. What is one of your most powerful memories as a therapist?
As a new therapist, I am consistently creating memories and having inaugural experiences that will one day have the potential to emerge from the rest with a greater significance or meaning. As of right now, they are equally as powerful.
7. How do you connect with your community?
Whenever possible, I’ve committed myself to reach out to the person that crosses my mind right at the moment. Second, I try my best never to take for granted an opportunity to tell someone what they mean to me and how they’ve impacted my life.