A team of mental health and wellness professionals from across Connecticut are teaming up to support the Black community and offer a space for healing.
The CT BIPOC Mental Health & Wellness Initiative was created in the beginning of the pandemic. According to the initiative's Facebook page, it was created "to provide a safe space to openly discuss the impact of this pandemic & racial trauma on Black, Indigenous People of Color."
Janelle Posey-Green, a licensed clinical social worker based out of New London, who co-owns a private practice, Magnolia Wellness, LLC, is behind the initiative.
"Even though everyone is struggling and it is evident that so many people need support, there is a special niche that happens when a person is not only trying to sift through racism and stigma with mental health, but then on top of that a COVID-19 pandemic," said Posey-Green. "That adds an extra layer of stress onto this particular population."
Recognizing that, Posey-Green reached out to her colleagues across the state.
"And asked 'would you guys hold space for people in our community? They seem to really be struggling,'" explained Posey-Green.
Not long after asking that question, the CT BIPOC Mental Health & Wellness Initiative began.
The initiative started in March, but became more formal in May with an official landing page on Facebook.
Since May, more than 40 mental health professionals have joined the initiative. The professionals offer their expertise and time, speaking on virtual panels, at no cost.
"Anyone who needs support or information, they have easy access to it," said Posey-Green.
Kelvin Young, a community health worker in Hartford, and Shenira Billups, a licensed professional counselor, are both founding members.
"Because we don't have to suffer in silence. We can talk about these things and get support when needed," said Young, who works with InterCommunity HealthCare. He is also a certified sound healer.
"To let them know that we are here to advocate and just to help them go through the challenges they may come across, as far as a support system," said Billups, founder and CEO of Mental Growth & Internal Healing, LLC. "We believe that folks, no matter what level they are, they matter and they need to know that."
Young and Billups said they have enjoyed being a part of the initiative. They have both participated in numerous panel discussions.
Since last year, the group has hosted nearly 50 virtual panels. The topics vary. All of the videos are available for free on Facebook. The page has more than 1,000 followers.
"I just know how it important it is to meet people who have had these experiences and share these experiences," said Denise Perez, a member of the initiative.
Perez works as a provider relations manager at Advanced Behavioral Health. She joined the initiative after listening to one of the group's virtual panels.
"It is helpful to hear their clinical background and, from their experiences as therapists, what tools you can use to manage stress or manage trauma," said Perez.
The initiative is not meant to take the place of therapy. Instead, it is designed to offer people a safe place and help them connect with additional resources. Posey-Green said that she is excited for the community to continue to grow.
“Really put our honest tears, sweat and time into this," said Posey-Green. "Because we really do care.”