Ep 14: A Bold Approach: How Race Impacts Mental Health Care for Veterans with Ricardo Byrdsong

On episode fourteen of Untold Valor, we’re joined again by Ricardo Byrdsong, who shares his experiences navigating race and mental health in the military and discusses some of the unique resources available to minority military veterans.

Tune in to hear about the benefits of race-based support groups, Ricardo’s personal journey with therapists of different backgrounds, and how a pastor’s candidness helped him feel comfortable discussing his mental health.

Don’t miss this incredible conversation that highlights the importance of representation and understanding in the world of mental health care.

Highlights of this episode:

1:33 – Is it easier to get help from someone that’s from the same racial background? Ricardo details the structure and benefits of Race-Based Stress & Trauma, an example of one of the empowerment groups Veterans Affairs leverages for veterans.

2:55 – Ricardo shares his specific experience in getting mental health care from therapists of different races.

5:22 – Reverend Ben noticed that therapists of a similar race could be bolder and ask more direct questions that might otherwise be uncomfortable for others to address.

9:18 – “It changed from almost no representation to almost full representation.” Ricardo expresses the importance of seeing diversity around you in the military.

10:50 – Ricardo shares a story about a pastor who was open about seeing a therapist and how it made him comfortable to open up about his mental health experience.

More About Ricardo Byrdsong:

Captain Ricardo Byrdsong is a retired Naval officer who enlisted in the Navy in June 1986. He received an NROTC scholarship to Auburn University, where he earned a Business Administration degree with an emphasis in Economics. After completing Supply Corps Basic School in August 1992, he served as Disbursing/Sales Officer and Assistant Supply Officer aboard USS PETERSON DD 969 until 1995. He then served at the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport, MS until 1997.

In 2003, he received a Masters of Business Administration specializing in Acquisitions and Contract Management from the Naval Postgraduate School. He also served at Commander U.S Pacific Fleet staff, Joint Contracting Command Iraq/Afghanistan, Naval Air Systems Command, and the Joint Strike Fighter Program Office.

Captain Byrdsong retired from active duty in 2019 and is now a full-time Executive/Leadership coach. He is married to Sonja Yvette Beachem, and they have four children.

Episode Resources:

Racial Trauma Information via US Department of Veterans Affairs: https://bit.ly/3mAvSj7

Ricardo’s Previous Interview With Untold Valor: https://bit.ly/3ojYbTe


Veterans Crisis Line: Dial 988 then Press 1   Chat at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat   or Chat by Text 838255

Voice & Vision: https://bit.ly/3miwFoy

CompeerCORPS: https://bit.ly/3GgKryU

Information on how to apply for VA Healthcare Benefits from anywhere in the USA: https://bit.ly/40PtrrN or call 877-222-8387 (M-F 8am-8pm EST)

To apply for veteran’s benefits and find resources in Pennsylvania veterans need to contact their County Office of Veterans Affairs as listed in this document: https://bit.ly/3m8PBWS

View more about PA’s resources for veterans: https://bit.ly/416cf0Q

Financial support for Untold Valor is provided by a Veterans’ Trust Fund grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

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