ORLANDO, Fla. – At a time where suicide rates are on the rise and mental health is a struggle for so many, a group in Orlando is taking action to get results and bring what they call black mental health to the forefront.
Two Orlando-based nonprofits are partnering with faith leaders, mental health professionals and survivors to kick-off the first of a series of events aimed at giving people of color a safe space to discuss their struggles, and also break down the invisible barriers of people seeking mental health treatment throughout Central Florida.
Peer Support Space and No Limit Health and Education will host its first no-cost dinner and panel discussion Thursday, March 5 from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. at 1000 Bethune Dr. in Orlando.
The Black Mental Health Matters events are in an effort to spark important conversations about emotional wellness, provide a space for community healing, and prevent suicide.
“This event is important because people need to feel they are in a safe place to express their true feelings without judgment,” event organizer Jeffrey McCary Jr. said. “It is important for us as a collective to talk it out and come to an understanding that we are experiencing a mental health crisis in our communities and it will not get better from ignoring it.”
Organizers said the goal is to help people to get the life-saving help they might need. They also want to spread the message that mental health is an essential part of well-being. They plan to host the event every three months in different parts of Central Florida consisting of workshops, group peer sessions and dynamic speakers.
“I want people to take away the feeling of being alone. As a provider I have spoken to countless people in the community who express very similar symptoms of mental illness that can interact with grief, finances, violence, family issues and other adverse events that are prevalent in black communities,” McCary said.
McCary also serves as the director of operations for the Outlook Clinic in Orange County. He opened up to News 6 about his own battles with mental health and talked about how different organizations helped him with his struggles.
“As a black male, I struggled with accepting my own mental illness, writing off my Anxiety & Depression as a phase and normal to my personality," he said. “If it was not for organizations such as Peer Support Space and my involvement with the Mental Health Association, I would remain oblivious to how much these mental illnesses affect me.”
He said African Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental illness and are far less likely to seek out mental health care.
“Untreated generational trauma and cultural stigma that says people should deal with problems on their own has stopped many from seeking treatment,” McCary said.