MLK event puts spotlight on well-known stigma in many communities: mental health

Published: Jan. 13, 2022 at 8:15 PM EST
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - For the first time, The Martin Luther King events in Myrtle Beach will tackle a huge stigma in so many communities: mental health.

The Carolina African American Heritage Foundation is hosting the Health & Wellness Clinic during the 2022 Grand Strand Freedom Week, MLK events.

The clinic will feature licensed counselors and leaders who can start a conversation about improving mental health and the need for people to speak up if they need help.

Those panelists include:

  • Dr. Jessica Greene, licensed professional counselor and private practice practitioner on the Grand Strand
  • Alfreda Small, licensed professional counselor for Small Counseling and Wellness LLC
  • Danielle Lewis, Founder for R.E.A.C.H. Empowerment

Da’Vita Foushee is a correspondent and organizer with the MLK committee celebrations.

She says mental health matters, further stating now is the time for people to stop being afraid to talk about it.

Foushee says tackling this issue during the MLK celebrations is timely.

When you hear Dr. Martin Luther King’s name, the discussions are often about civil rights and justice for all.

Historically, Foushee says there were so many in the black community who suffered in silence, including Reverend King.

“Just like a lot of our ancestors,” Foushee said. “King became very disconnected from himself because he was part of something greater. When you think about a man that great, right, he couldn’t have been happy all the time.”

It’s something she says many in the black community struggle with today.

“We’ve been told from generation to generation, house business stays in the house. But right now, we need to get it out. Somebody needs to start talking about it because this is not going to get any better until you release it. As African American women, we’re always seen as the strong ones. We’re always seen as the ones who can keep taking the pressure and never break. We don’t talk about our problems. Sis, it’s time. It’s okay. Give yourself some grace. It’s okay if you’re not feeling good. Let somebody know; you don’t have to suffer in silence anymore,” Foushee said.

This is why organizers with the Grand Strand Freedom Week, MLK events are taking a huge step towards erasing the stigma.

“They’re going to walk into a safe space of course. Be their true authentic self. Be able to ask and get answered any questions they have,” said Lewis, one of the discussion panelists during the event.

The counselors and speakers added, the event allows everyone to talk openly about their experiences, which they say is a step in the right direction towards eliminating the taboo surrounding mental health.

”If COVID hasn’t taught us anything, it’s taught us that there are a lot of people who need our services,” Lewis said.

“Since COVID when it slowed everything down, a lot of times people have come and said they dealing with trauma. That brought up a lot of issues for people. That brought up some anxiety, and anxiety can lead to depression and I been helping others who are working through those thoughts and feelings,” Small said.

“Right now, mental health disorders, they aren’t going anywhere,” said Dr. Greene. “There are too many things going on in our society. Are you going to have a sense of fear talking about this? Yes. Are you going to have that sense of shame, that sense of stigma? Yes. Is it going to test your vulnerability? Yes, it is. But it’s time for us to face that fear and be courageous and have these crucial conversations. Our goal is for it to become a part of the everyday conversation.”

The Health & Wellness Clinic is happening on Saturday, Jan. 15, at the Boys & Girls Club in Myrtle Beach, located at 1000 Dunbar Street. The event will take place from 1 p.m.- 3 p.m.

Grand Strand Freedom Week events are happening from Jan 14-Jan 19.

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