By Leah Harris
In honor of Women’s History Month in March, we highlight five innovative women advocating powerfully in mental health and suicide prevention. Each one of them leads from an authentic place of lived experience in their work for social change. Please follow, support, and amplify the work of these women who are changing the conversation about mental health, making change in their communities, and making history while doing it.
Imadé: Depressed While Black
Imadé is a writer and lived experience mental health advocate who founded Depressed While Black®. She first developed Depressed While Black as part of a graduate program thesis in 2015. Since then, Depressed While Black has grown into an online community, a forthcoming book, and a 501(c)3 nonprofit donating Black-affirming personal care items to people in psychiatric hospitals. In addition, Depressed While Black partnered with Darkness Rising, a mental health awareness nonprofit, to create Help Me Find A Therapist, a free program that helps community members find Black therapists. You can support Imadé’s work by donating towards a wish list of Black-affirming personal care items.
Elena Rose Vera: Executive Director, Trans Lifeline
Elena Rose Vera joined the executive team at Trans Lifeline, a grassroots hotline and microgrants nonprofit, and the largest direct services organization run by and for trans people. Vera is longtime organizer, educator, and performing artist who holds an M.Div. focused on social justice and community care work. Vera told Paper: “We hope that our service is able to help trans people connect to each other and not just be a community who is served, but to recognize also that the people that are helping them can be role models. We’re not just people that need to be rescued, but also have extraordinary gifts.”
Ysabel Garcia: Estoy Aquí Community
Ysabel Garcia is a mental health advocate and social justice educator, based in Western Massachusetts. She uses her story of survival as a first-generation Dominican immigrant and former psychiatry patient to dismantle myths about mental health and suicide in her community. She is a sought-after speaker in suicide prevention and public health. She founded Estoy Aquí in March 2020, an initiative that provides racial justice training and intergroup dialogue to address the social and cultural factors contributing to suicide in the Latino/Latinx and Black community.
Dese’Rae Stage and Jess Stohlmann-Rainey: Suicide ‘n Stuff podcast
Dese’Rae is a suicide attempt survivor, mom, artist, and activist who created Live Through This (LTT), “a multimedia storytelling series that aims to reduce prejudice and discrimination against suicide attempt survivors.” Des has interviewed and photographed 188 suicide attempt survivors in 36 US cities since 2010. Jess is a researcher, trainer, and advocate who has focused her career on “creating pathways to intersectional, justice-based, emotional support for marginalized communities.” Jess says that she “centers her lived expertise as an ex-patient and suicide attempt and loss survivor in her work.” The advocates are the co-hosts and creators of the Suicide ‘n Stuff podcast, which airs every other Tuesday on Facebook Live at 9pm ET/6pm PT.
To learn more about each of these remarkable activists:
- Imadé: What It Means to #BuildABlackVision for Mental Health (The Mighty)
- Elena Rose Vera: The Only Crisis Hotline By Trans People, For Trans People (Paper)
- Ysabel Garcia: Suicide n Stuff podcast interview
- Dese’Rae Stage: This Photographer Shatters Taboo Of Suicide Survivors (HBO)
- Jess Stohlmann-Rainey: The lifesaving lesson suicidal people can teach a world in a pandemic (USA Today)
Leah Harris is a non-binary, queer, neurodivergent, disabled Jewish writer, facilitator, and organizer working in the service of truth-telling, justice-doing, and liberation. They’ve had work published in the New York Times, CNN, and Pacific Standard. You can learn more about their work at their website and follow them on Instagram.