Time to elevate MANkind with Senator Rene Garcia

Time to elevate MANkind

Mental health is an important issue that affects us all, and we need to start taking it seriously. In this episode, Kindness Influencer and Podcast Host, Marly Q, plus special guest, former Senator Rene Garcia and Miami Dade County Commissioner for District 13, share personal experiences with mental health struggles and highlights the need for accessible and affordable mental health services. It’s time to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness and make it accessible to everyone, regardless of their financial situation. Join us in raising awareness and let’s work together to create a world where mental health is a priority for all mankind!

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Upcoming Event


MANkind Summit May 17-19, 2023


“We all are one crisis away from a mental health breakdown and must do a much better job as a community in providing resources.” ~ Rene Garcia

Listen to this Episode and Discover…

  • How Marly Q teamed up with former State Senator and local government official to host the MANkind Summit May 17-19, 2023, and why you should attend! 
  • The shocking truth about the easiest (and hardest) way access to mental health services
  • How having a standard of kindness can lead to a successful career
  • 3 keys that have sustained a 20+ year long career in politics
  • Simple ways to elevate your mental health & wellness every day, no matter how busy you are!

About Marly Q:

Kindness Influencer, Leadership Trainer, and Community-Builder on a mission to create a kinder world for over two decades. Through her podcast, she invites listeners to make “Time to Be Kind” each week to receive a spark of kindness, connection and community.

Connect with Marly Q:

LinkedIn: https://linkedin.com/in/MarlyQ
Instagram: https://instagram.com/MarlyQ
Facebook: https://facebook.com/theMarlyQ
YouTube: https://youtube.com/@MarlyQ
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MarlyQ
TikTok: https://tiktok.com/@theMarlyQ

About Our Guest:

Rene Garcia is a former Florida State Senator and Miami Dade Board of County Commissioners for District 13. He is a passionate advocate for mental health awareness and accessibility. Rene emphasizes the need for accessible and affordable mental health services.

Connect with Senator Rene Garcia

Instagram: @senrenegarciafl
Facebook: SenReneGarciaFL
Twiiter: @SenReneGarciaFL
Website: miamidade.gov/district13

Other Links:

Upcoming Event: MANkind Summit May 17-19, 2023 – www.mankindsummit.com
Join our Kind QREW Free Private Facebook Group:
Join our Kind QREW+ Paid Membership: https://marlyq.com/kind-qrew
Programs & Courses: https://marlyq.com/programs
Marly Q Speaking, Training & Retreats: https://sparkcsr.com
Listen to Marly Q TEDx Talk “Kindness is your Superpower”: ​​https://bit.ly/MarlyQTEDxTalk

Other Episodes you’ll enjoy:

EP 34: Don’t Quit on YOU with Marly Q
EP 15:  Planting Seeds of Kindness with Marlon Hill
EP 10: Looking Over the Edge with Caroline De Posada



00:00 Marly Q

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and you are invited to our second annual MANkind Summit, May 17th through the 19th, 2023. The purpose of this three day virtual event is to elevate our Mental Awareness Now (MAN) and bring an end to the stigma surrounding mental health. And in today’s episode, we’re spending time with the first MAN who said yes to supporting the MANkind Summit. Stay tuned.

00:39 Marly Q

Welcome, and thank you for making Time to Be Kind today with me and our special guest, PARKer today. He’s the former Florida State Senator and Miami Dade Board of County Commissioners for District 13, Rene Garcia. Welcome to the show.

00:55 Rene Garcia

Thank you, Marly Q. It’s always great to see you and be here with you.

00:58 Marly Q

Oh, my goodness. Thank you. So before we dive in, Senator, can you tell our PARKers listening, in case you’re new to Time to Be Kind with Marly Q and our world? What’s a PARKer? Do you remember what a PARKer is?

01:11 Rene Garcia

PARKer is a person Performing Acts of Random Kindness.

01:14 Marly Q

You got it. I was putting you on the spot. I put all of my guests on the spot to remind you and our PARKers listening. You know really, the purpose of this podcast is to inspire and influence and unite more PARKers in this world, people that Perform Acts of Random Kindness, just like you and me. Whether your title is senator or commissioner or mom or teacher or lawyer or banker or retiree or student, whoever, you are listening, if you are a person that Performs Acts of Random Kindness, you are part of our movement and our mission to create a kinder world. And I’m so happy to be joined here today with Senator Rene Garcia, because he was the first person to say yes to this vision and this mission to work together and collaborate with our local government to spark some more Mental Awareness Now. And you know, that’s an acronym. I’m dropping another acronym for you. Mental Awareness Now is the acronym for MANkind Summit, and that’s the purpose of the event. So, Senator, can you tell us how important is it to elevate our Mental Awareness Now and put an end to the stigma surrounding mental health?

02:25 Rene Garcia

Wow. That’s a loaded question. Right? Because there’s so many issues around mental health. And I think I’ve always said that all of us, every single person, is one crisis away from having a mental episode to having a mental breakdown. I really do believe that. And this is why it’s so important for all of us to take this issue very seriously. We should not treat mental illness any different than any other condition that we have, any disease or condition. We should really treat that with the most respect that we do in every other condition. So this is why it’s important for us to be able to have these conversations and let people know that it’s okay if you’re having a challenging moment in your life, if you’re going through some difficult times, it’s always okay to speak to someone. And for far too often, our society, and especially within my own family, we hide away from our problems, sweep them under the rug, right? And we try to deal with it on our own, and there’s no reason to do that. We see a lot of money being invested at the federal and state level for a lot of mental health programs and trying to get folks to understand that it’s okay to talk to someone. And this is why I try to do my part here in Miami Dade County. Try and I think you hit the nail on the head. It’s try to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness, because if we continue to have that stigma around, it’s just going to make it more and more difficult for people to actually access mental health services.

03:45 Marly Q

Absolutely. And that’s why I’m so grateful as soon as I share just my vision and my intention to create an event or a container where we can not just unite people and educate or teach and empower and have this “Rah, Rah” Good. One time event. But really create something that’s a spark to some real changes in the way that we address our own mental health and with each other and something that starts a ripple effect long after the event. So I just want to publicly thank you again for being that first spark for us and continuing to support our efforts.

04:19 Rene Garcia

You don’t have to thank me. I need to thank you. I think this community owes you a debt of gratitude for the effort that you’re doing not only around PARKing, but along the MANkind Summit and making sure that we do bring attention to Mental Health Awareness in our community. Look, I, for one, did a lot in the mental health space when I was in Tallahassee and I was a state legislator, both in the House and in the Senate. We wrote all the laws. We give people long door access to mental health services. If you enter the system, then you should come out with the slew of different services and referrals to make sure you know where you go after and to help not only the individual suffering from mental illness or having an episode, but make sure that the family has a resource available to them. Marly, I’ll tell you, all those things that I did in Tallahassee I thought were great. I come back to Miami, and I see the gaps in the services. I see the gaps that the laws that I create, that I help write in Tallahassee where there missing. We apply them to everyone’s regular day. And look, one of the things that I learned, the the most most important thing that I learned is that the easiest way to access mental health services is to the criminal justice system. That means you have to commit a crime in order to access mental health services. That should not be the case. There’s hundreds of families, thousands of families who have children, brothers, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters who are suffering from a mental health illness for many years but have never committed a crime. And for those families, it’s very difficult to understand and how to access the system. It’s not right. And then the other component of it is, if you have Medicaid, you usually have access to certain services. If you’re rich, you can afford it. But then the middle class is the one that gets completely squeezed and they just cannot afford those services. And I tell you this, why, never in a million years did I think after I was writing all these laws, that this year I was going to have to be dealing with that with a family member of mine. And everything happens. God uses us in very different ways. And while it was very challenging for me and for my family starting maybe last October I’m sorry, august of last year through now I kind of see it as a godsend because I realize now how difficult and how hard it is for families to access the system to the point where they charge us, thank God, about $20,000 for three weeks for services. Who can afford that right now? And it’s very difficult. And those families that really are trying to help their loved ones mortgage your homes and mortgage whatever properties they have to try to get them those services. But what happens to those that can’t? And if you don’t qualify for the Medicaid services, then you’re not going to be able to access a system. And now it’s my charge to try to help that, to make sure that we do have a system that’s fair and equitable, that people can access.

07:18 Marly Q

I want to shift the conversation towards your own mental health. You’ve been in politics in this political field that’s a high stress environment for over 20 years. How do you manage your own mental health? Because there’s a difference between mental illness and mental health. Right. And trying to elevate our own mental health is a daily practice, right? How do you take care of your mental health?

07:39 Rene Garcia

One of the things where I find it very relaxing is and is being next to the water. I enjoy being around the water, whether it’s a lake and I would love to say a waterfall, but we don’t have waterfalls here in Miami. Or the ocean. And I realize every time I go out to Miami Beach I realize how much I miss just sitting on the beach for an hour or two. And I used to try to do that on a regular basis and just be alone with myself and my thoughts. And for me, my creator, my God, when you’re doing that. And that is where I find the most peace and comfort. When I can spend some quality time alone time and finding a place where you can feel comfortable and at peace with yourself. And that’s what I have been, what I did for many years. Now, being back down here. When I was in Tallahassee, I would find that there was a lake, Lake Ella that I would go to all the time when I needed a break because the stresses of life get to you and especially the stresses of politics, especially when you’re in the heat of things. But now, here we have a lake. Actually, now we have a lake back here that sometimes I’ll just stare out the window, just look at the lake and find the serenity and the peace in the lake. And in Miami lakes, there’s a couple of lakes that I really enjoy sitting on the ground and fighting some alone and peacetime. And that really helps for me. That is what helps me. That’s just how I find the comfort in my mental wellness to ensure that. Because at the end of the day, we all have the stresses of life. I don’t care how young or how old you are. Apparently, now that you get a little older, you realize that the older you get, the more complicated things get. And you can’t yearn for a, Whoa, I wish I was back in my 20s or 30s. 40s. I’m getting up to my getting close to my 50s. We can’t yearn for it. We can’t live in the past. We have to understand these are the circumstances that I have today and learn to deal with them. And I think when you have that alone time when you could figure out what you need to do and focus on your time and your own mental wellness.

09:28 Marly Q

Absolutely. I would imagine that in politics, you said when you’re in the heat of it, sometimes it’s hard to remember, like, hey, to respond instead of reacting, right? I could imagine that that’s difficult. So when we’re talking about kindness, how has having this standard and value of kindness that I know you have, how has that helped you in your career?

09:50 Rene Garcia

In this game? Everyone says you have to fight fire with fire. Some folks have never understood my style of legislating or politics or negotiating, because if they’re anything I’m negotiating, it’s a compromise back and forth. But I have found for me, what has worked is through honesty, compassion, and empathy. And when you put all that together, that’s where kindness comes from. And understand when you’re negotiating with someone or you’re having a debate with someone, what I try to do is put my feet in their shoes, trying to put myself in their own shoes, right? To figure out where is it that they’re coming from? And if they’re being aggressive and if they’re being mean spirited, trying to figure out where is it that they’re coming from, why are they acting the way they are acting with me? And then if I can figure that out, then I can try to nip it at the bud right there and then explain to them, listen, that’s not who I am. This is what I’m trying to do. And where I have been successful in at least through the eyes of others. In Tallahassee, when I was in legislature, I was always pretty upfront with people. This is who I am. This is what I’m working on. This is where I’m trying to go. While other people’s politics, that’s not always the case. I think some folks at the beginning didn’t understand me, but I’ll tell you this, one of the best moments of my political life in Tallahassee was the moment that I left the Senate and people come up and applaud you, and they say great things about you. But the one thing that I took back from that was that everyone said, a lot of people are saying, Rene, you’re always an honest guy. We didn’t have to worry about when you got up and testified. We didn’t have to worry when you get up on the Senate floor, both the Republicans and Democrats, we knew where you were coming from. So to me, that meant a lot. And I think that’s why every day, every night, I get put my head on the pillow and sleep comfortable, because I know that I’m trying to do the right thing for the right reasons and not trying to go after anyone.

11:47 Marly Q

Yes. That’ll make for a nice, healthy career no matter what industry you’re in, I think, right? Being able to have a standard of kindness towards how we interact with each other. And I know that in today’s political climate, it’s so and cancel culture. It’s so easy to forget that or just to not have that in place, even on social media, right?  We’re living in a place where it’s just you disagree with someone, and all of a sudden you’re canceled or you’re banned or you’re blocked. And that’s just not the way that progress is made, right?

12:20 Rene Garcia

Yeah. That’s one way to look at and with social media at the beginning, I said at the beginning, I’ve been on social media for quite some time. When I was in the house. But the last couple of years, you start following a little bit more and more and more. And there was a time that I would get so frustrated with some of the negative comments in social media, and I want to respond. And I realized, wait a minute, that’s a whole different world out there. Whoever saying these negative things about me, they have no idea who I am. Especially in particular, coming down to Miami Dade County, local politics. Local politics, it’s where the rubber meets the road. When you’re in Tallahassee, you’re able to escape. When you’re in Washington DC, you’re able to have a step away, removed from the public. But when you’re down here at the local level, it’s a contact sport constantly. And I’ll tell you a perfect example. The other day, I put a tweet about the importance of protecting the Everglades, and I’m out there in front of a crane that they’re doing a project to help the Everglades, right? And someone tweeted, oh, you guys are all you’re into development. Developments? You have no idea. You obviously did not read the tweet that I put out of protecting the environment at an event to protect the environment, but yet you want to criticize me and say that this is all about development. And it’s quite the opposite. So at that point, I thought we’d respond. How dare they? Why respond? You can’t argue against stupid. You really can’t. And this is what happens in the social media world. People are going to say, whatever. They hide behind their tweets, they hide behind their posts. And the truth of the matter is that’s just the universe out there that doesn’t affect me anymore, does not touch me, doesn’t affect me anymore. What affects me is the personal, interpersonal relationships that I have with individuals. Those people that know me on a one to one basis, they know who I am, where I stand, and what I stand for. All those other folks. I would encourage people to take the time to get to know everyone or get the time to know me and you’ll know who I am and what I’m all about. So it’s not even about a party. Party or not, where you live, ethnicity doesn’t matter. We all have something to contribute, something to offer. I think it’s important for us, before you start to criticize, take the time to know who that person is and where they’re coming from.

14:35 Marly Q

Absolutely. That’s why we’re making time to be kind with Marly Q right here, right? Sometimes. Really! Because sometimes we have. And I think it happened last year at our MANkind summit as well. I remember hearing feedback from the audience when you spoke, how grateful they were to be able to hear from a, quote, career politician in a refreshing way. Because sometimes in, again, the state of the world that we’re living in, sometimes you hear that some of the politician, and immediately you have judgment about that. Immediately you have a wall that comes up. Immediately you’re either dismissing it or you put them in the left or in the right or not anywhere. Instead of really making the time to listen, ask some questions, meaningfully connect, see if there’s an alignment and how you can collaborate. I mean, in a nutshell, that’s how you and I are working together, actually, to bring it back to the story that did bring us together. It was an act of kindness, right? How did we meet? Do you remember?

15:37 Rene Garcia

How we met? I think it was through Kadie Black.

15:42 Marly Q

Yes. A fellow PARKer.

15:47 Rene Garcia

Kadie. I love Kadie.

15:48 Marly Q

Shout out to Kadie CEO Voices for Children. Shout out and thank her for her kindness, right? Because she was meeting with you, and in whatever you were talking about, she’s like, hey, you need to connect with Marly Q. She’s about kindness. You all are aligned. That one spark of kindness, that one introduction led to us doing a Facebook Live to celebrate random acts of kindness. Last year, one this year again. And we’re collaborating on an event that is aligned with both of our agendas, so to speak, right? Which is, let’s elevate our mental health. Let’s set each other up to thrive as one humankind, as one MANkind, and really share with each other a space at the MANkind Summit. It’s a three day space, a container to join us leaders, your teams, to come on in and receive. It’s not just learning about mental health and ways to actually elevate your mental health on a daily basis, but you have the opportunity to meaningfully connect with other people. And we have lost so much connection. We have lost so much real kindness, I believe, because of the pandemic and having to be kind of isolated and quarantined and kind of just focused on your own, right? And there’s studies like science shows that as anxiety increases, which all of our anxiety levels have increased over the past couple of years, and as anxiety increases, our ability to empathize with others decreases. Because it makes sense. The more focused I am on what’s going on with me and my problems, the less resource and capacity I have to care about what’s going on with you and why it’s so important to make time to be kind to yourself, right? So can we speak to the importance of that, of making time to be kind to yourself, to each other? What are your thoughts on that?

17:35 Rene Garcia

Actually, going back to the thoughts of the view that we have for political leaders, you can’t blame people, right? Because the political environment that we live nowadays is so toxic and so partisan and so difficult. But I’ll tell you, most of the people that run for office, they’re good people that want to try to do the right thing. I’ll tell you, some people go a different direction, like a lot of you, and then you ask yourself, Why are you doing this? But I’m a firm believer in public service and trying to help others. And we have lost, unfortunately, we have lost the empathetic nature of humans, of us as individuals, and we have to try to find a way to restore that, to find the empathy in society. Find the empathy, try to put yourselves in someone else’s shoes, understand where they’re coming from. Compassion is a little bit different. I think empathy is a much more powerful feeling that we can start using and educating individuals as to what it is to be empathetic. And you’re right to be kind, not only being kind to others, but being kind to yourself as well. That’s something that I’ve struggled with while I realize that in order for me to be able to help others, I have to help myself. We hear that all the time. And you could be as nice as you want, but if you’re not nice to yourself and take care of yourself and take care of your mental health, your physical health and your spiritual health, then you might as well not do. You’re not going to be able to do what you need to do.

19:04 Marly Q

You’re going to burn out.

19:05 Rene Garcia

Yeah. And this is where I’m trying to now refocus. The last couple of months, I’ve been struggling a little bit with my physical health. Then I realize I’m struggling with my physical health and I realize, well, I haven’t been praying as much as I’m a big believer, I’m Catholic and I believe in God and Jesus is my savior, trying to push my religion anywhat, but that’s just what I believe in. And even the last couple of months I realized that because I haven’t been paying attention to myself both on my spiritual, mental and physical health. Everything’s been a little chaotic and I need to start bringing that back and start praying again at night, start walking again in the morning, start working out and start reading again. I stopped reading in the evenings or in the mornings or the afternoons. I am not gonna lie to you. I haven’t always been a big reader, but I know that is very good for my mental health to be able to read and turn off the TV, turn off the radio, and just fall into a book. So those are the things that I’m trying to do, trying to learn another language. I know I just now starting to register for French lessons I started doing and I let that go. But those are little things that I can do to take care of myself and things that I find joy and happiness in. And in turn, when you are happy and you’re joyful and it emanates and that comes out to the rest of the people around you. So this is why I do think I agreed with you 100%. Again, easier said than done, Marly, about taking care of yourself. But it’s important to do it and find those little things that make you happy. This is why I tell folks the walking in the mornings, for me it’s uplifting. It’s great for your physical health, your mental health, even your spiritual health. Just for me, I get up in the morning instead of snoozing, get up, move, get moving, go outside, go outdoors and walk. And I don’t necessarily walk with the EarPods. I know everyone does that. I’d like to hear the birds chirping or the cars on the road and I’m able to be with my thoughts and that helps me throughout my day. And again, I backed away from that the last month and a half of that, the two months. But I’m going to start that up, God willing, tomorrow, again, tomorrow, Sunday, and just go forward on and try to keep that as part of my consistent part of my life.

21:14 Marly Q

So I love that you shared that. Thank you for the honesty and the authenticity and the vulnerability. Thank you. These are all things that we highlight and amplify at our MANkind Summit, by the way. Having that be normalized and appreciated and hold the space for people to be honest, that it is hard to especially be a servant leader or a mom of two or an entrepreneur or a business owner or a full time working professional or a teacher. Whatever it is that you are doing, it’s hard to balance, right? Everyone’s trying to seek this like work life balance. And really, I’m here to tell you friends, the only thing that you can balance is your brain, right? You can balance your nervous system and to help elevate your mental health and stress less so that you can come and confront all the things that you have to do and get through them in the best way possible with the best energy. Because we are always going to fall off the track of our self care, right? But how are you treating yourself when you fall off the track? Are you treating yourself with kindness? Being like, hey, listen, cut you some slack. I’ve been traveling, I’ve been this, I’ve been that, like, I haven’t done my weeks, my daily walks, I haven’t been reading the Bible as much as I’d like, I haven’t been doing this or that. But instead of beating ourselves up with that, just kind of having mindful awareness, right?

22:38 Rene Garcia

Well, that’s a good word. Mindful awareness is the way to do it. You’re absolutely right because I always try to beat myself up. Rene, What are you doing? You’re being a hypocrite to your cause about healthy living. You’re being a hypocrite to your cause about hope and helping others. But the reality is that you’re right. It’s mindful awareness and I realize it and it’s incumbent upon me to try to get back on track. Correct? So I’m going to do it.

23:00 Marly Q

That’s it. We are responsible for our own mental health. I say this over and over, I am responsible and all that means, even when I fall off the track or I didn’t like this week, I went to the gym four times a week instead of five times a week, right? Which, by the way, I’m bragging because at the last MANkind Summit, I said that that was one of my goals, right? To get back into the gym. To get strong and I am celebrating eleven weeks of consistency at the gym.

23:26 Rene Garcia

That’s the way to do it. That’s awesome.

23:29 Marly Q

But I will be honest, when I launched the MANkind Summit last year, I was not taking care of my physical body in that way, right? It became a goal that day. And thanks to kindness, connection, community and accountability, I’ve been on that track. And when I fall off, I get lifted back up on track or kindly reminded on track. It’s not this like beating down, right? Like, you didn’t do it, you suck, you’re terrible. No, not at all. So, to wrap up our conversation, why should someone listening, your leaders, your teams, why should we make time to be kind and attend the MANkind Summit?

24:08 Rene Garcia

At the end of the day, I think it’s important that MANkind Summit, I love all the information that we get and the authenticity that you said of these speakers and having people come together and share different thoughts and ideas. Look, we’re all very different and we all have different things that motivate us, and I think at the MANkind Summit it’s a great way to see what everyone else is going through and realize that you’re not alone. You have someone like me, senator, former senator, county Commissioner now that people say, oh, he has no problems, and I have a lot of problems, and I have to learn how to manage it. And just because you have a title or you have an office, doesn’t mean that your life is just great. So I think it’s important for us to understand that we all have struggles, we all have to deal with issues, and it’s how we deal with them and how we treat others as we’re going through that process. And this is why at the MANkind Summit, what I love about it is that we can learn from one another. I think it’s one of these unique forms that we have, these conversations. Even if you’re not talking, but just listening to what everyone else is going through. It’s not necessarily a negative things, positive things that are happening in your life too, that uplift you, bring you up and motivate you to keep out, to move forward. There’s just a lot of things that happen and you hear the MANkind Summit, and this is why I get excited about it. So I had no problem at the beginning. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. By you yourself, following your lead and seeing your spirit and seeing your enthusiasm and that beautiful smile that you have and what emanates from you, it’s just nothing but positivity. And the world needs a lot more of that. And this is why I’m excited to be here with you and whatever I can do to help you as you move forward in promoting kindness and love and empathy. When you use that word, to me, that’s a big word, promoting that that’s what this world needs just a little bit more of because times a little tough. But because the world is tough doesn’t mean that we have to be that way too. It’s incumbent upon all of us to fight against that darkness and be the light out in the world. And that’s what you are, Marly.

26:10 Marly Q

Oh, thank you so much. That’s such a beacon of hope. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. Thank you for making Time to Be Kind with Marly Q. We’ll see you real soon.

26:19 Rene Garcia

Absolutely, Marly. Take care of yourself.


I know you enjoyed that conversation with me and Senator Rene Garcia. Now it’s time to not just celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month with a meme or a nice post, but really, really participate in a meaningful and impactful way. Join us at our second annual MANkind Summit, May 17 through the 19th. You can find all of the details in this episode show Notes @ MarlyQ.com forward slash this episode number. Again for full transcription, show notes and the links to connect with Senator Rene Garcia and his team at Miami Dade County, go ahead and visit Marlyq.com forward slash this episode number. Thank you for making the Time to Be Kind. See you next time.

Upcoming Event


MANkind Summit May 17-19, 2023

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