Meet the woman fighting to break down the stigma of mental illness in Harrisburg’s Black community | Anwar Curtis

December 5, 2019 6:30 am

LaPorcha Grigsby, founder of Black Girl Health Foundation, Inc., in Harrisburg (submitted photo)

There has been a significant amount of dialogue and action around mental health in the Harrisburg school district.

Earlier this school year, local recording artist J. Bair created his own Mental Health Matters apparel. And with the help of his colleagues, that apparel has flooded the district’s classrooms and hallways..

Anwar Curtis (Capital-Star file photo)

A little more than a month ago, I wrote a column about Harrisburg resident Julia Mallory and her book “Survivor’s Guilt,” which was not only a way for her to massage her emotions of trauma, but it was also a way to share encouraging words geared towards any reader.

Now LaPorcha Grigsby, founder of Black Girl Health Foundation, Inc is running with the mental health baton, partnering with the Dauphin County Library System, and the National Network of Libraries and Medicine to continue the conversation.

With the help of these allies, Grigsby is putting on a a six-week Minds Matter Mental Health Campaign which will be held at the East Shore Area Library and the Madeline Olewine Memorial Library from Jan. 10- Feb.15, 2020.

For those unaware of Grigsby’s BGH Foundation, its mission is simple.  It aims to “reduce the health disparities among minorities and communities with the highest health risks” as it states on its website.

One way BGH strives to reduce disparities is through content, events, and constant leadership.

Grigsby is an African-American woman, wife, and mother who continues to have a phenomenal support system which started during her younger years and now has transitioned into being a full-time entrepreneur.

Grigsby is fully aware that not all minority women are fortunate enough to have a support system, encouraging them to establish themselves in the work field, household, and social groups, which unfortunately develops a mental and physical strain which causes other health issues at high risk for many minority women.

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Thanks to the creative minds involved in BGH, Grigsby’team has stepped up to the task, creating six workshops to engage and revitalize women. There will also be workshops tailored for children and teens, educating them on ways to deal with their very own mental health through self-esteem practices.

There will also be workshops for women who are battling with self-love entitled “free your mind and your weight will follow” and “beating depression naturally.” Advance registration is recommended.

Karlise Cureton, who is BGH’s College Ambassador Manager, loves working for Black Girl Health Foundation, Inc. She said she’s looking forward to helping to break the stigma of mental illness among women and girls of color.

Cureton told me that she’s fully aware of the many different women who live in Harrisburg and of their struggles.

She wants Minds Matter workshops to bring those women together, so they can share their experiences with each other; support one another during and after the the workshops, and then take what they learn and put it to work by seeking assistance from other nonprofits, and accessing their services.

One organization that is fully on board with this campaign is the Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania. Shalawn L. James is the Acting Executive Director. It is James’s sincerest hope to shed a spotlight on the stigma associated with mental health as well.

“For African-Americans, this stigma is compounded by historical adversities such as racism, sharecropping, racially-based discrimination, elimination, limitations, and exclusion from quality educational, socioeconomic physical/mental health care opportunities,” James said. “It is my hope to help establish a pathway to recovery for the African American community as a whole, as well as all those seeking mental wellness through education, understanding, and compassion.”

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, nearly 30 percent of African American adults who suffer from some form of mental health receive treatment each year, compared to the U.S. average of 43 percent.

Grigsby said she’s fully aware of the data and advocates for women specifically take the necessary steps in pursuing a healthy life. And thanks to her BGH Foundation, her Minds Matter campaign will help women do just that.

Capital-Star Opinion contributor Anwar Curtis, of Harrisburg, tells the stories of the people of Pennsylvania’s capital city. His work appears biweekly. Readers may email him art [email protected].

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