‘We are here’: Groups push for more mental health services in minority communities

'We are here": Groups push for more mental health services

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Several Richmond area organizations are coming together trying to change the stigma around mental health especially in minority communities.

Monday afternoon adults and children were able to speak with counselors for free in Hillside Court on the city’s Southside. The counseling event was put together in the aftermath of the Sharmar Hill Jr.’s shooting death.

The three-year-old was shot and killed Feb. 1 while playing outside near his Hillside Court home.

"We had several constituents reach out and ask if there was somebody or some agency, they could go to, to receive some therapeutic services," said Katrena Ready, Program Director at Therapeutic Application Practice.

Sharmar Hill Jr.'s death still weighs heavy on people's minds in Hillside Court. It's just one of the many senseless shootings that have happened across the city of Richmond since the start of the year.

"If you are dealing with grief, if you are dealing with any severe obstacles that you need assistance with, we are here," said Nicole Culbreth, Executive Director of Neighborhood Community Services.

United Communities Against Crime, Hillside Tenant Council, New Life Deliverance Tabernacle, Richmond Redevelopment Housing Authority and the Richmond City Health Department put on this event Monday in hopes of informing the community about various resources available when it comes to mental health.

However, these professionals say minority communities can be reluctant to use these services.

"Especially in the communities of African Americans,” Ready said. “It's a stigma and saying that you don't go outside of the home to seek services, but we're changing all that."

Ready believes the actions of professional athletes can help change that stigma in minority communities.

"A lot of people in these communities look up to professional athletes and it's really nice to see these professional athletes step forward and say, ‘hey I'm dealing with anxiety issues or hey, I'm dealing with major depression’,” she said. “They are also letting them know that I'm going out and seeking help and getting that help."

Meanwhile, these groups are also pushing for more funding and opportunities to access these services.

"There are outreach programs that are missing for our young children and young adults,” Culbreth said. “If we have adequate programs in place, then I truly believe that will assist with the crime rate going down."

The hope is to hold an event like this every few months in different minority communities across the city.

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