September is Suicide Prevention Month, and over the last several years, data has emerged indicating an alarming increase in the suicide rates for Black youth. In the third episode of Mind of Texas, host Ike Evans navigates a hard conversation with Krystal Grimes, MS, LPC, Director of Inclusion & Resilience at Bastrop County Cares and “Rue Dashnaw”, a youth community leader to reveal how resilience has emerged within Bastrop’s bleak backdrop of self–harm and suicidal ideation.
The full transcript of this episode of Mind of Texas is available on the KUT & KUTX Studio website. The transcript is also available as subtitles or captions on some podcast apps.
Intro I would love to see some real healing in the mind of Texas. The mind of Texas is affecting me very deeply. The mind of Texas is critical to what the future of Texas is about.
Ike Evans Hi, I’m Ike Evans, host of The Mind of Texas podcast from KUT News 90.5. Texas is a big and diverse state, and so are the minds of the people in it. Each episode we bring you a discussion on what’s happening in Texas and its effect on our mental health.
Rue Dashnaw It’s hard when you don’t feel heard or seen because sometimes they don’t. So to the people up there who don’t feel heard or seen, I understand you and I hear you. And I hope someday that somebody else will as well.
Ike Evans It is often said that children are our future. So in this episode we are talking about youth leadership and the miracles that can happen when young people are empowered to embrace new leadership opportunities to help improve their neighborhoods and communities through the example of an extraordinary young person who is affiliated with Bastrop County Cares, a grantee partner of the Heart Foundation for Mental Health. We’re going to be talking a lot about community resilience. So I think it’s helpful to know what it is exactly that I mean by community resilience. So the American Psychological Association defines resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress. And note that phrase adapting well. So not just withstanding, not just surviving. And so applying that to community resilience is when people in places are able to adapt well in the face of the bad things that sometimes happen, whether it’s natural disasters, whether as is unfortunately increasingly the case, mass shooting incidents, political crisis, whatever it is that might just so disunity or adversely affect people’s mental health. Communities model resilience when they’re able to come together in response to adverse circumstances and act in ways that leave themselves better off. And we’re seeing that modeled right now in the community of love all day. They are showing a tremendous amount of resilience in the face of the tragic school shooting that happened last year. And that’s just one example. Before we get into it, a quick heads up that we will be talking about suicide and suicidal ideation. So listener discretion is advised. September is suicide prevention month. I have some numbers for you, courtesy of the Congressional Black Caucus Emergency Task Force on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health. Did you know that suicide is the second leading cause of death in youth ages 10 to 19 years, and that over the past decade, the suicide rate for black youth rose from 2.55 per 100,000 in 2007 to 4.82 per 100,000 in 2017. Black youth under 13 years are twice as likely to die by suicide compared to their white peers. And then finally, the suicide rate among black youth has been found to be increasing faster than any other racial ethnic group. Joining us now from Bastrop is Krystal Grimes, director of inclusion and resilience for Bastrop County Cares and co-founder of Black Kings of the Future, Andru Dashnaw, who’s making a difference in their community at all of 16 years of age. How did the two of you first meet and how did the two of you kind of first connect?
Rue Dashnaw We kind of first met at the Youth Summit, which was actually Miss Krystal’s mom’s idea because I know her mom to see and she does my hair. So I was reading her a poem I wrote one day that was based off of youth mental health. But she heard the poem and was like, You should definitely be a part of this youth summit that we’re doing. And I was like, okay, that sounds like fun. I’ll check it out. And then I got to meet the lovely Miss Krystal, and we started just working together, and I think we really started connecting when we found out that like we had very similar ideas and like the pathway that we wanted to go on this. So yeah, I think that’s when we are connecting.
Krystal Grimes My mom has also been at the table for the Youth Summit planning team, and I was asking, I said, we just need some new innovative youth. Do you know anybody? And she said, Rue, I’m going to I’m going to see if Rue can come to the table. And as soon as Rue started talking in the room, I said, Yeah, yeah, this was a perfect marriage. And then when this opportunity came, it was just the way that Rue spoke up, advocated for themselves. It was beautiful. So that’s how we got here.
Ike Evans So, Krystal, you just heard me read off some what I would think would strike most people as some rather surprising statistics. So imagine that you’re addressing a group of let’s just call them decision makers on this issue. Having worked closely with young people there in your community, what would you want to get across to them? You know, from your own point of view.
Krystal Grimes When it comes to youth suicide, and I would say not only for black youth, folk, for all youth, in particular for the rural communities of Texas, I would say that it’s extremely important for policymakers, academics, teachers, school districts, everyone to adopt a community engagement process that actually listens to the input, the voices and ideas of our youth. We’re going into our second Annual Youth Summit, which is a Bastrop County Youth Summit. But previous to that, myself and a few other community leaders, we have been deeply engaged with the youth of Bastrop County. But the biggest takeaway that we have been able to garner from planning and implementing and really seeing the necessity of the youth summit that we’ve been doing here in Bastrop County is the voices of our youth. And actually the theme of our first ever youth Summit was Hear us now. And the teens of our community were really, really adamant that they feel that their unheard, their opinions may be heard in different places or, you know, a survey may be done. But the biggest piece is our youth are extremely intelligent, they are extremely innovative, creative. They understand what they are experiencing from a different perspective. Their perspective and insight is different than a lot of different generations. And as we can see, that makes them really vulnerable to a lot of different things that are happening in our society as of now, especially in this pre-COVID society. And so I would say, listen, take their voices, their opinions to heart, incorporate them in the decisions that are being made and also in the implementation of those ideas to incorporate our our youth and our teens. And who is a local youth here in Bastrop County who is an extremely intellectual, creative innovator. Their voice has been critical in the process of the Bastrop County Youth Summit that we’re planning for the second annual.
Ike Evans So, Rue, you just heard me in Krystal saying a little bit about, you know, youth mental health. And yeah, I had to I had to start off with some some fairly bleak statistics. Our listeners would love to know more about you and the work that you are doing, both for yourself, but also for a more resilient Bastrop County.
Rue Dashnaw I try to take a step back when life gets a little too hard and my community, I know what it’s like to not feel seen or heard. And I think I can really hope with the issue at hand. So I’m trying to help advocate for others who don’t have that voice and can’t speak up like I can. I want to help others who don’t feel seen and heard.
Ike Evans So Krystal mentioned the youth Summit. I would love to know a little bit more about the role that you’re playing in that.
Rue Dashnaw I’m part of the creative team in the summer. I’m helping with designing commercials for the summer, trying to get people to come out. I’m helping with like designing the t shirts and the programs. I’m part of the creative division.
Ike Evans And so like you mentioned how you sort of hope to be blazing a trail for others who might not be as far along in finding their voice. I mean, is that a fair characterization of the impact that you’re hoping to have?
Rue Dashnaw Yes. Yes, it is.
Ike Evans You said that you have some personal insight even in the topic of youth suicide. And so whatever it is that you feel confident in, in sharing with our listeners, there’s sure to be a lot that they can take from it.
Rue Dashnaw Since I was young, like really young, I’ve struggled with suicidal ideations and becomes self-harming when I get that point. So I know how it feels to everyone out there who feels like they’re just gone. And it’s understandable. Life can be really hard and sometimes you’re just like, I don’t want to live a life that’s just going to continue being uphill. But something that’s really helped me is just music, being outside, exercising, going on walks. A lot of people I wouldn’t say don’t have good coping skills. It’s just they don’t know where to go. I’m fortunate enough to have somebody that I can go to and I can be like, Hey, I’m struggling. I don’t know what to do. Can you find something to put this energy towards? I can do something that does help me, but it’s hard when you don’t feel heard or seen because sometimes they don’t. And that’s why I self-harm, because it’s only making the problem worse. So to the people out there who don’t feel heard or seen. I understand you and I hear you, and I hope someday that somebody else will as well.
Ike Evans Krystal, what’s your reaction? You know, hearing that.
Krystal Grimes Number one, Rue is extremely brave. And I thank you Rue for sharing that, sharing the vulnerability, but also the strength and the resilience in your walk. I would say from the first moment that I actually met Rue, I could see the power room commands a room. There is clearly a purpose and a place in this world for Rue and Rue is living that. If I’m not sure a rule recognizes that or not, especially being a part of the creative team. Rue has been very, very instrumental in guiding the team towards a vision that will live on for generations. When it comes to the t shirts, when it comes to the website, design, the fliers, just the way that we are getting the word out about the youth summit. And so, number one, I just want to congratulate Rue for their bravery. But I would also like to say that last year it will trickle into this year. So this year our theme for the Bastrop County Youth Summit, it is the power to change as well as we all matter. And that’s a way for the youth to speak about, you know, hear them and actually take their concerns, their lived experiences into consideration. So as we plan this, each aspect of the youth summit is Cole planned, co-designed and implemented by a panel of youth from Bastrop County, which incorporates three major cities here in Bastrop County. But last year we had 182 youth to attend our youth summit, and at the end we did kind of a conversation and a project to where we asked them, what is a resilient community to you from your perspective, from the teen perspective? And we received some amazing feedback that is going into planning our second annual. But I’m also happy to say that we were able to present that to our County Commissioner Court. And so they heard the voices of the youth, of what they’ve said about creating more mental health days, trying to implement that in the school systems in our county commission, city council, really a trickle down effect of not only talking about the youth, talking about the issues, because we do know here in Bastrop County that the trend of youth mental health challenges are going up. There are not enough providers to be able to serve and service those needs. And so we are working on community partnerships to be able to support that peer partnership’s youth, to be able to utilize their voices, to bring awareness to the issues that are going on, not only in Bastrop County but throughout our country. Also last year, we were visited by Queen Maxima of the Netherlands. Because of our youth summit here in Bastrop County, she actually visited Bastrop County. We were able to have ten different youth mentees or youth peers to be able to speak to the queen, to be able to voice their opinions about what’s happening in the landscape of youth mental health. So we are very, very excited. We’re hopeful for the future of youth mental health here at Bastrop, alongside partners like Rural, to be able to speak their truth and to be able to stand in who they are to make a change for not only themselves, but for the others to come behind them.
Ike Evans Now, let me just add real quick. Did y’all know that Yes, Queen Maxima of the Netherlands was in the metro last fall. One of her stops was indeed Bastrop, and it was, in fact, Krystal, among others, representing the Bastrop County Cares that received her. And it was it was quite a beautiful occasion. And the youth in particular, they showed up. They showed out. And it was high praise. Yeah. Even from Her Majesty herself and her whole retinue. So.
Krystal Grimes Yeah, exactly. And if I can say, the biggest thing that came from that I was even from the Queen, that a lot of the issues that our youth are going through, it’s not very different worldwide. And so even the youth of the Netherlands, you know, it’s a different landscape, it’s a different country. But when it comes down to it, when it comes down to the struggles, when it comes down to the strategies to overcome those, it’s the same. And so there’s a lot of things that we can do, you know, in our counties, in our cities, state worlds, that we can come together to create a more peaceful and resilient place to live for our youth and our children.
Ike Evans Roo You mentioned things that you do that help your mental health. So maybe you could add some things or, you know, just tell us things that your friends find helpful with regard to their mental health, because I know that that’s something that you care deeply about.
Rue Dashnaw Yeah, something for me that just helps deal with my mental health or like, helps me remember not to do the things that we’ve talked about is just remembering my goal for the future. If I’m not here, then I can’t be that advocate or for others. I can’t hope all these wonderful people find their own path. So I look for my future. I see that the place I’m in this dark time also like that. If I don’t leave this dark place, then I’ll never get back to a light. My friends, a lot of them kind of confide within each other. I guess like their mental health thing would be like talking to a friend, being with a loved one, being with somebody they know and trust, and just staying with them, recharging their energy with the person that they trust and care about. Some of my friends are like me and loved being outdoors. So some people just go outdoors and sit outside for a little bit, maybe take a walk or go swimming or hiking. Other people go to art like me. Whenever I’m feeling down, I grab my sketchpad and I just sketch until something comes of it. And then I’m like, Oh, look at this beautiful art I made. And it helps me remember that like, yes, this was bad, but something good came out that music. Music helps a lot because for people who can’t speak and don’t have that voice, there are songs out there that have already put your voice into those lyrics because there are people out there who are like you and feel the same way.
Ike Evans Krystal Tell us more about the Resilient Bastrop Collaborative. Like who are the some of the major stakeholders and what changes is it trying to make in the community for youth mental health in particular?
Krystal Grimes So the resilient Bastrop County Initiative was started in 2018 with funding from the Heart Foundation for Mental Health. And we are happy to say that we have some great partnerships and community members at the table. And so not only as a community members with lived experiences, we have community health workers, we have mental health organizations like NAMI and Life Steps and a few others. We have some partnerships with some academic institutions, local organizations, Chamber of Commerce’s really to be able to promote mental health equity. And what that means is that for all of Bastrop County to have equal access to mental health services, to be able to understand what it means when we say resilience, to be able to have a base level understanding when it comes to community engagement, community trust, building, healing, space creation so that we all can come to the table together to be well, to have equal access to wellbeing and mental health. So when it comes to youth mental health, we have co-created the Bastrop County Youth Summit alongside a few different community organizations with one of the top being our local Ascension Catholic Church, as well as Bastrop ISD. And we have many, many teens at the table. Last year we have over 180 youth who were in attendance from four different school districts here in Bastrop County. And we are doing work. We’re continuing. Of course, there’s lots and lots of work to do. Our local mental health authority, which is Bluebonnet trails, we are working to form a more solidified partnership with them because they have brought up the issue of youth mental health and the need for more clinicians and mental health providers to be able to serve the need that is coming out of Bastrop County and similar rural communities. And so the resilient Bastrop County, we are here, we are open to all to be at the table, youth and others to be there, to work alongside us.
Ike Evans I would love to know about a personal story or testimony that shows the impact that your collaborative is having on young people.
Krystal Grimes From the beginning of the resilient Bastrop County Initiative, from the formation of that. It was very clear that in order to get community members and organizations and others to the table to be able to do this work with us, we had a lot of healing that needed to be done and healing in terms of historical race based trauma healing. And once we got to the place of creating a space to be able to do that, the trust, the example that was formed in our community, to be able to build other tables of safe space creation, like the youth Summit, that was something that was really, really natural. I am a mother of two young men that are ten and 11, and so I think from a personal perspective, that example of not only the bravery that it takes to be able to form a table that speaks about racism and healing racial trauma, but also creating multiple tables of centering youth voice, and that has formed the evolution of the black kings of the future. It was previously called the Bastrop County Black Boys Collective, but it evolved through some funding from the Hawk Foundation and the Central Texas African-American Family Conference. We received a grant to be able to do some local work here for our young men here in Bastrop County to come together from a social connection perspective to really experience different things in our community that they’re often not either not exposed to or that they may not have been aware of. And so that is my personal story about, you know, the resilience work that we’re doing here in the county.
Ike Evans As we have been doing this podcast. I have been asking our guests how the mind of Texas affects theirs. My thesis is that there is much that is uniquely stressful, uniquely aggravating, uniquely inspiring, uniquely hopeful, uniquely promising, uniquely creative, uniquely infuriating, uniquely all things about life in Texas. And this is particularly true for people of color, for members of historically excluded groups in general. You can add rural communities in Texas that are underserved for anyone who’s really trying to make a positive difference that impacts mental health and well-being. There are just things about this state that will try your patience. But on a good day may also inspire you to achieve things that you never dreamt were possible. And so I’m interested in the mind of Texas. I’m interested in all the ways that the mind of Texas bears down upon the minds of individuals in our state. And so let’s hear what Krystal and Rue have to say.
Rue Dashnaw Let’s say the mind of Texas is affecting me very, very deeply because of everything that’s gone on in the past year. There’s a lot that’s going on in Texas, I think really needs to change. And it hurts my mental health knowing that I’m living in a place that isn’t benefiting me. It’s hurting me like what happened with George Floyd. That terrifies me every day. I’m 16. I’m old enough to drive and I have to be scared. More scared than a normal teenager would be when it comes to driving because of my race. I’m terrified of abortion rights. I am not a kid who would just go round and fool around. But there are kids who are out there who are like that. Accidents can happen. And if that safety net is no longer there than I’m scared. Kids my age and younger, having children who barely know how to take care of themselves, let alone having the ideations. I do that. That that’s a terrifying thought in itself right there. And to think that that’s about to become a reality that really affects me. So the mind of Texas not only is affecting me, it’s hurting me in more ways than one.
Krystal Grimes I agree. I agree since 2020. And I would say coupled with my age, just some different experiences. It has hurt. It can hurt. But what it’s done for me, it’s kind of brought me to a place of resistance, but it’s also been a place of thrusting me to a place of solution building and solution finding. And because of youth, like two of my children and others, you know, really pushing forward to say if you’re not going to recognize the issues that are harming us as opposed to helping us or bringing us all together, if this is the continuation of that, then what is the alternative? And so really looking for alternative ways for us to come together as a community, to be able to solve our own problems or to be able to from a mental health perspective of actually that is something that drove me to become a counselor, was the lack of clinicians that look like me, that understood my walk in life. And so it really continues to thrust me into a space of filling that gap that is being left behind by the policies and the systems that are currently and still in place that have actually historically been in place, but that are continuing to get worse. It feels like over time.
Ike Evans Some of our listeners might love your advice, particularly those who are either the, you know, the parents of youth or caregivers. Just advice on any resources or tips on things that they can be doing to either, you know, better connect with or to help young people who they may be concerned about.
Krystal Grimes I think because I am a clinician here in Bastrop County, the knowledge of the community organizations and people that come together in order to address mental health has been extremely inspiring. I can’t think of another word, but it’s been truly inspiring to see the amount of people and I think just a different level of awareness when it comes to mental health and particularly for for youth mental health. And so the first thing I would say is local mental health authorities. So that may be integral care or bluebonnet trails here in Bastrop. But also there are a lot of different inpatient and outpatient places that that people can go to. Also, the knowledge that if you call 911, there are mental health officers that are strapped in order to be able to respond to youth mental health crises. And so I think really addressing youth mental health from a perspective of understanding, first and foremost, we’ve all been in the place where we have struggled with some form of mental health challenges. And I think if we begin to normalize that and not to. Place our youth or any other people in a place where they feel othered. There has been a lot of othering lately, and I think if we can begin to normalize and bring that together, but also to be aware and really seek out proactively, seek out what resources are around, what are available. For instance, the Haque Foundation for Mental Health, I would say start in different places like that. We also have an Office of Rural Health that is through our Health and Human Services Department. There are resources widely available all over here in Bastrop County. We have the Bastrop County Cares website. We also have the Youth Summit of Bastrop County website. There’s a lot of different places for parents, caregivers, congregations, academics. It’s a lot of places where people can go in order to get the resources. I recommend proactively looking at where you can go in times of need so that when the time comes, you know where to go and who to trust.
Ike Evans So one of the things that I sort of plucked out of the conversation that you just heard is that the story of what is happening in Bastrop is largely the story of what is possible when people are brought together across generations, across vocations, across sectors. In the case of Krystal and Rue, just a chance encounter with Krystal’s mom opened up a new world of possibilities that are yielding fruitful results. And there are lessons in that for all of us, just finding one another and creating venues for people to come together and address community issues and problems that people have in common. You never know what might result from that. Something pretty dramatic, in fact. So when it comes to mental health, as I’ve been saying, it shows up in a lot of different places and people come at it from where they’re at. You don’t really begin to get a handle on the problem until you manage to facilitate, you know, people just coming together, comparing notes about what they’ve been through and where they’ve come from and what they would like to see happen in their communities, because that’s what it is, a community and that’s what we all need to. Thanks for listening to Mind of Texas. You can find our full list of episodes at kut.org or wherever you get your podcasts. Please leave us a rating and review on your preferred podcast player. It really does help. Mind of Texas is a collaboration between KUT 90.5 and the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health. Original Soundtrack by Jaron Marshall. This episode was edited and produced by Jack Anderson for KUT Austin. I’m Mike Evans, communications manager for the Heart Foundation for Mental Health and host of The Mind of Texas podcast. Thanks for joining us. Hope to have you back soon. See you next time.
This transcript was transcribed by AI, and lightly edited by a human. Accuracy may vary. This text may be revised in the future.