By: Tatiana Gonzalez Quiroga, Movement Maker Tribe Editorial Team
A Revolutionary Man
At a young age, Lorenzo Lewis, founder of The Confess Project, realized that mental health was a significant problem for African-American men. Among his family members, he noticed that something internally was holding them back from becoming the best versions of themselves: their mental health. And Lorenzo himself struggled with depression. He lost both his parents before age 21. He was born in a prison and almost re-entered the system of mass incarceration at age 17 for a petty crime.
Lorenzo decided that the status quo on mental health needed to be revolutionized. Instead of succumbing to his pain, he used it to ignite change. He realized that other men shared similar struggles and decided to create a platform to give them the hope that he needed when he was a kid. Lorenzo used his triumph to change his perspective on mental health. He turned his struggles into something beautiful, The Confess Project, now a leading voice in the mental health advocacy field. As he states, “Life works like that sometimes. We have to take the good with the bad to make it all worth it.” The organization is creating change by working to eliminate the stigma of mental health through safe places where men can start an open dialogue about mental health.
Praying the Pain Away
According to studies, African Americans are 20% more susceptible to experience significant mental health conditions, and suicide is the third leading cause of death in African American males. Oftentimes, men grappling with mental health issues are told to pray their struggles away instead of actually addressing the root of the problem. Men are raised to believe that expressing vulnerability is a sign of weakness, which causes them to bottle up their emotions in hopes that no one sees their struggles. They are discouraged from seeking help because they think that society will label them as crazy. If someone were to break a bone, people would immediately rush to the doctor. However, if someone is experiencing a mental health condition, people will find ways to leave the illness unaddressed or come up with alternative methods to cope with it. The Confess Project is a grassroots movement taking these societal taboos head on.
Lorenzo knew that he needed to mend the hole that prevented males of color like himself from seeking mental health care. He leveraged his professional experience in the mental health field and his personal journey to create The Confess Project in 2016. The name was inspired by the Book of Genesis. When people confess it makes them feel as if a burden was lifted off their chest. Voicing mental health struggles is similar to confessing: many are afraid to do it, they unlock a sense of relief and comfort.
Since 2016, his movement has expanded from its home base in Arkansas to multiple states throughout the U.S. Lorenzo trains individuals such as barbers (because their shops are social hubs and occupy an important place in the community) to address the taboos of mental health particularly in underdeveloped communities. The Confess Project also programs with young men in secondary schools and higher education institutions. The goal is to look at the boyhood to manhood component of healing and growing over a period of time.
You Are Not Alone
The Confess Project serves to remind males of color that being confident in oneself and surrounding oneself with people that love you are the perfect ingredients to a healthy and successful life. It is not selfish to seek help when life gets difficult. Every human is susceptible to pain. It is time to eliminate the stigma that prevents many from seeking help. The Confess Project works to eliminate toxic masculinity by encouraging men to speak out on topics that society has often excluded men from having.
When the community gathers in solidarity, movements are made and change happens.
For those struggling with mental health, you are not alone.
About the guest author: Tatiana Gonzalez Quiroga is a student at Louisiana State University and a recent graduate of the inaugural Governor John Bel Edwards Fellowship. She is also the 2017 Undergraduate Student of the Year, and like Terri Broussard Williams is an LSU Ambassador, and former President of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) on Campus at LSU. Tatiana serves as an intern for the #MovementMakerTribe. She will be spending her Spring semester in Manchester, UK studying politics.
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