Woman shares story of hope to encourage mental health talks
Talks of mental health within the African American community continue to move toward the forefront, but it hasn't always been easy to be vulnerable or share something so personal, at least for Sherika Bailey. However, she's sharing her story now in hopes of breaking a stigma that when you do, it's not looked at as a weakness.
"For the longest time, I didn't want to talk about it because I always felt judged," said Bailey.
Born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, she shared a personal moment of what her childhood was like.
"I did experience abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse to this day a lot of people still don't know that. I didn't have anyone to tell me like before hand the bad touches, the no's and when to come to an adult especially when you're a very quiet kid as I was growing up," she said.
Bailey went on to share how it led to an addiction in her teenage years and an attempt to take her own life.
"It was a cloud, it was dark and it was like I don't want to fight, I don't know how to fight anymore," she explained.
But, Bailey did fight, became a mom and wanted a change. She moved to Anchorage almost 6 years ago for what she thought would be a fresh start.
"Throughout our time living here we did experience some homelessness," she added.
Determined to not give up, Bailey started to volunteer and became a mentor to others in her same position, which ultimately led to a job.
"I had to get out of that mindset of expecting the worse and start expecting better," said Bailey.
She said mental health is something that's not discussed particularly in the African American community.
"What matters most is just telling your story and just to make sure that other women, African American women to know that they're not alone and that this is something you can talk about without being judged," said Bailey.
"The majority are African American and I do see that struggle with wanting to present as strong, wanting to present as everything's okay, I can do this. African American community and mental health systems have had adversarial relationship for hundreds and hundreds of years. The stigma associated with mental health is that it has been historically viewed as a weakness, if you are depressed or you have anxiety you need to just snap out of it," said Monique Andrews, Owner of A Step Forward Counseling and Consulting LLC.
Andrews said trust is a big factor, but so is being open.
"I think through community education if we create a pathway between community resources, churches, religious affiliations and public education on mental health, we can reduce some of that stigma surrounding mental illness as being a weakness," explained Andrews.
Allowing a platform for more people like Bailey to feel comfortable stepping up and speaking out.
"It really is a mind over matter thing, like there is power in your words," said Bailey.
"We have to do a better job at letting them know their needs are heard, that they are listened to and valued," added Andrews.
Bailey took up hobbies like baking and teaching herself to play the piano as ways of self care. As for finding a therapist, Andrews said when looking, do your research, but don't give up. Give it a couple of "dates" before you make a decision and try again until you find someone that works best for you.
See below, information on suicide prevention and awareness or mental health resources.
Mental Health Emergency Counseling:
Suicide Prevention Hotline: