Breaking The Stigma of Mental Health with Jeff Rocker

“Everybody knew a street pharmacist. Nobody knew a therapist,” is how Jeff Rocker described his upbringing in his South Florida community.

In this episode of Lift U Up: Inspiring Health Stories, Jeff very candidly describes how he “lost his way” as a young teen in high school, was kicked off the basketball team, and found himself slipping into deep depression. But as a young man from a Haitian family, he was told to “man up” and that he would “be okay”. His experience talking to a high school counselor taught him a lot about coping with his own emotions, but also opened his eyes to just how much his community was missing out on valuable emotional support. Today, Jeff is a licensed mental health counselor and nonprofit founder, helping the same kids he once was.

As a teenager, Jeff Rocker had dreams of playing basketball and going to the NBA. The game was his life, so when bad decision-making led to him losing his spot on the team, he was shaken. Without the chance to play basketball, Jeff fell into depression. He missed school, fell behind on coursework, and struggled to see past this loss.

Growing up in a Miami community where mental health was rarely discussed, Jeff and his family didn’t know of any resources to help him through his depression. Coming from the Haitian culture, which often keeps emotions behind closed doors, they encouraged him to “Man up and get through it”. Though Jeff’s parents cared deeply for their son, they didn’t know of any other way to approach the situation. Jeff’s teacher picked up on his struggle, and referred him to the school guidance counselor. Though uncomfortable, he slowly opened up and was eventually able to find happiness again.

This life-changing experience gave Jeff the insight into just how much his community lacked the education surrounding mental health support. The myths surrounding therapy kept so many people away from addressing the subject. Jeff made it his passion to cut through the stigma and prove that therapy does not always look the same for everyone. Having a counselor who looks and speaks like you is important for building trust, so that is who he set out to be for kids just like him.

Today, Jeff works as a licensed mental health counselor where he supports his patients by earning their trust, working with them where they feel most comfortable, and giving them a relaxed space to open up. His nonprofit, How We See It Inc. provides outreach programs, like Hip Hop Therapy, to break down the stigma of mental health in communities across South Florida.

What else can you expect in this episode?

  • Why there are so few therapists of color.
  • How Hip Hop Therapy educates students through music, and why that works.
  • How 2020 is having an impact emotionally, and what that means especially for Black Americans.
  • Jeff’s case for why your voice and perspective can make a difference in the world.
  • Jeff’s advice for how to manage the uncertainty we are all living through, and why a support system is so important.
  • Why a mental health checkup is something everyone should consider.
Breaking Stigma of Mental Health

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