"I'd rather be living my truth happily than living a lie miserably." - Toni Payne
" I wish I was dead." That was the text message I sent to a friend, followed by police officers at my door. After informing the officers that I had taken a handful of pills with a bottle of wine, hoping I would die in my sleep, I was immediately transported to the hospital. I remained in psychiatric treatment for three weeks. This was the moment my life changed forever; I was diagnosed with depression. A few weeks before the pandemic, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I decided to start my own business, TBlackman Mental Health Training & Consulting (formerly Fireflies Unite). My goal is to help eradicate the mental health stigma through education and advocacy.
I began my career in the television industry. I worked on shows such as The NAACP Image Awards, Black Girls Rock!, and The BET Awards as communication, public relations, and event productions professional. Because of my challenges, I transitioned into the mental health field. I wanted to let people know that they are not alone and don't have to suffer in silence.
I hosted the Fireflies Unite With Kea podcast with a mission to bring light into darkness (just like the fireflies) by sharing stories of black people thriving with mental health conditions. With over 100,000 subscribers, the podcast ran for two years. I continue to share my recovery story at various events such as The Educational Series with the Maryland Employment Network, Turn The Light On Tour, No More Martyrs Conference, and many others.
As a way to merge my skills and passion, I currently serve as the Director of Communications & Programs for the Association of Behavioral Health & Mental Wellness (ABHW), a non-profit dedicated to advancing federal policy and educating the public on mental health and addiction treatment. I am responsible for developing and executing ABHW's messaging and communication strategies, overseeing campaigns, managing and growing the Corporate Partner Program and DEI initiatives, and planning the Policy Summit.
I provide mental health trainings for organizations to help create a healthy workplace culture where employees feel comfortable talking about their mental health. I developed numerous training such as Stigma In The Workplace, Work, Recovery & Social Security Benefits, and Advocating In The Workplace. I partnered with The Quell Foundation and was featured on a billboard in Times Square, NYC, for its "Remove The Stigma" campaign. I am the author of Saved & Depressed: A Suicide Survivor Journey of Mental Health, Healing & Faith and published articles on The Mighty, Urban Faith, Blavity, and 21 Ninety. My articles have garnered over 120,000 views and encouraged individuals to seek treatment.
In April 2018, I was appointed by the Governor's office to serve on Maryland's Behavioral Health Advisory Council. I participated as a cast member and co-produced This Is My Brave: Arlington Show, a storytelling show for individuals with mental health and substance use disorders to share their recovery stories. I was featured in a mini-documentary produced by AbbVie, a biopharmaceutical company, and shared my story of living with bipolar disorder. I received the Program Leader of the Year Award by The National Alliance on Mental Illness of Maryland.
I earned a master's degree in public relations and corporate communications from Georgetown University and am a proud graduate of Howard University (HU! U Know! The First HU!), where I obtained a bachelor's in communications and media.
Mental Health Credentials
Certification: Mental Health First Aid Instructor (Youth & Adult) Instructor
Credentialing Organization: The National Council of Mental Wellbeing
Certification: Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) Instructor
Credentialing Organization: The Copeland Center and On Our Own of Maryland
Certification: Certified Peer Recovery Specialist
Credentialing Organization: The Maryland Addiction & Behavioral Health Professionals Certification Board