Event recognizes mental health disparities for African Americans
West Palm Beach, FL – One hundred professional women of color recently came together at Manatee Lagoon in West Palm Beach for Nourish, an all-day brain health event offered for free by Healthier Neighbors, a Palm Health Foundation Healthier Together initiative. The event was designed to address the specific needs of the attendees as African Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population according to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health.
Nourish was the brainchild of Jeanette Marshall, senior director of Healthier Neighbors, an initiative that is focused on improving the health and well-being of residents living in the Northern West Palm Beach and Riviera Beach neighborhoods. Healthier Neighbors convenes residents, listens to their needs and provides financial support and resources to help the neighborhoods make positive, healthy changes.
Marshall realized that general mental health awareness messaging wasn’t resonating with the specific needs of the people she serves. “A large percentage of the professional women of color in our community are caretakers. They don’t take the time to address their mental health,” Marshall explained. “These women do such a great job creating initiatives and finding solutions for the community, but do not take the same level of care for themselves.”
A committee of five high-powered professional women helped Marshall develop the day-long retreat filled with workshops and experiences intended to bring peace, knowledge and empowerment. They included: Leontyne Brown with 513 Media; Shenetria Moore with SHEholdings; Anitra Moss with Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies; Sophia Nelson with S.A. Nelson and Associates; and Sheree Wolliston with American Heart Association of Palm Beach County.
Radio personality Moshay Laren served as event host for the retreat as attendees participated in sessions ranging from self-guided adult coloring, yoga and meditation, crystal healing, journaling techniques, spiritual beading, creating vision boards, essential oils and the power of positive affirmations. During an afternoon lecture titled, “Black Women at Work and in Society” and facilitated by Christine Platt, author and influencer, attendees stood and told stories of personal struggle with self-care. Platt shared that professional women of color with advanced degrees have higher mortality rates than white women who are high school drop-outs.
A discussion about why health outcomes are poorer for black women led to a commentary on the portrayal of black women in culture and their role throughout American history. “Black women are understood to be strong, unwaveringly resilient and therefore averse to showing vulnerability and emotion,” said Vanessa Moss, an attendee and Palm Health Foundation’s communications manager. “In higher education and the workplace, black women often find themselves the only one represented in a room of colleagues. This leads to a feeling of needing to work twice as hard to reach the accomplishments and accolades attainable by non-black peers. The weight of these realities can cause black women to internalize stress, which can lead to chronic health issues, including anxiety and depression.”
Nourish provided the attendees with a safe environment to come together and identify with one another, while also learning new strategies for increasing positive brain health. “The event committee and I designed the experience so that all attendees walked away from Nourish understanding the need for self-care in their daily lives,” Marshall said.
They certainly did. Attendees clapped and cheered each other on as women stood to declare their intentions for self-care and work-life balance. Women smiled, hugged, exchanged business cards and left Manatee Lagoon newly inspired and encouraged.
About Palm Health Foundation
Palm Health Foundation is Palm Beach County's community foundation for health. With the support of donors and a focus on results, the foundation builds strong community partnerships, respects diverse opinions, advocates for its most vulnerable neighbors and inspires innovative solutions to lead change for better health now and for generations to come. The foundation supports health equity for Palm Beach County residents of all backgrounds, heritage, education, incomes and states of well-being. Palm Health Foundation has invested more than $78 million in Palm Beach County health since 2001. For more information about Palm Health Foundation, visit palmhealthfoundation.org or call (561) 833-6333.