Donald Dew, on mindfulness over violence

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By Bonni McKeown

Donald Dew was interviewed at U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis' education conference last month. He is president of Habilitative Systems, which will open the Westside Community Triage and Wellness Center together with Bobby E Wright Mental Health Center at 4133 W. Madison St. in April. 


I was born in Chicago and grew up on the West Side. My mom came from Louisiana and my dad from Mississippi, trying to find a better way of life. Five of us stayed in a two-room apartment, but we had enough to eat. I had a good education and a chance to travel. My mom was a founder of Mile Square Health Center along with Earlene Lindsey.  In college I was studying medical technology, but ended up helping classmates in difficult situations and decided to get into mental health. It was a natural for me. 

The World Health Organization has scientifically identified social factors that determine people's health, such as food security and housing. Childhood trauma affects your whole life. Many kids today are being threatened, traumatized and violated in so many ways. How can we expect them to achieve? 

We have gun violence. For every effect we find a cause — a flood of emotional distress, anger, disenfranchisement, the feeling of 'why even try?' In the 1968 riots on the West Side after Dr. Martin Luther King's death, people were feeling their dreams totally deferred. 

When we open the Triage and Wellness Center, we want to get to the root of how these issues affect people, including drug addiction. We want to teach wellness and help remove the stigma about getting help with mental health. We'll teach tai chi, yoga and movement, mindfulness and meditation (how to get control of your own mind, starting with how to breathe).  

School curriculums should address psychological, social and biological conditions that affect how we think and behave. Send students to a "mindfulness room" instead of detention. This means more than a time-out — it's actively breathing, learning to control what's happening in your mind. Like the cartoons with the angel and the devil on your shoulder — you have a choice what thoughts to listen to and act on.  That's where mind over matter comes in.

 Bonni McKeown

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