We are pleased to spotlight Melanie Funchess for our Black Wome Roc! Campaign
Melanie Funchess has been working professionally in Black community wellness for almost 25 years. Currently, she is the Director of Community Engagement at the Mental Health Association of Rochester.
When did you begin business and/or teaching?
MF:I have been working professionally in Black community wellness for almost 25 years. I have been doing the work a good bit longer than that.
Where did you get the inspiration for your business brand?
MF: I have always known that we, as Black people, are better than our circumstances. I also know that the intergenerational trauma of our enslavement and subsequent oppression have left lasting effects on our people physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. The desire for us, as Black People, to be healed and restored to our rightful space is what inspired me and continues to drive me in the work.
What makes you want to teach/do your business?
MF: An enduring love for my people and my desire to see them living well in their mind and body is what makes me want to do the work. Frederick Douglass said “It is easier to build strong children than to fix broken men.” I know we need healthy adults to raise the strong children. So I’m working to help all members of the village be well so that they may be able to be their best in their role in rebuilding the village.
For you, how does your business/brand relate to wellness?
MF: “As a man (woman) thinks, so is he(she)” Mental wellness is central to overall wellness. For me, mental health, at its most basic, deals with how people process thought, the factors that affect that thought process, and how that thought is translated into behavior. Before we can begin to heal the physical we must first deal with the mental and spiritual.
How do you stay healthy?
MF: Like many others, I know what to do but struggle with consistency. I meditate, pray, watch what I eat, and am starting to walk more for exercise. I have made a commitment to myself, my family, and my friends to do all I can to be the best me I can be so I can do the work that is set before me. This means that I have committed to living a healthier life. I’m better at it some days than others but each day I give it my best.
What do you feel is the most challenging aspect of your career?
MF:I feel that there are two, separate but related, challenges to my work. The first is the intensity of the stigma related to mental health in the Black Community. It is changing and at the same time it is still a very hard subject to get our people to address.
The second challenge is the implicit biases of the dominant culture when it comes to black people. These biases inform their thoughts which effect their actions in policy, program, and practice. The manifestation of this is seen in the health disparities seen for black people across all health domains as well as the disproportionate numbers of Black people in systems (Juvenile and criminal justice, special education, foster care, etc.).
When you aren’t teaching classes what do you like to do?
MF: I like to spend time with family and friends, read, and listen to music.
What are you working on now?
MF: I’m working on creating linkages between all of the amazing culturally responsive work that is happening in our community and bringing more resources to our community to expand the work.
What advice do you have for others interested in pursuing their own business?
MF: I would like the readers to know that mental wellness is central to overall wellness and that if you are going through something to please remember three things: