By Micha Green
D.C. Editor

Mental illness in the Black community is a bit of a taboo that only started to gain major traction in the past decade, particularly with celebrities championing the cause to address the problem, and with movements such as the #YouGoodBro and #YouGoodSis, that encourages checking in with friends and their wellbeing.  However, there’s more work to be done, as information, access and healthy conversations about mental health are still limited. Calvin “DJ Tryfe” Seino is working to normalize discussions and treatments for mental illness in the Black community- starting in the nation’s capital at the Viribus Ball.

The Viribus Ball is a gala held on Jan. 19 to bring awareness to Black mental health, particularly that of men, at the Highland Theatre in Southeast, Washington, D.C.  Seino, founder of the Viribus Ball, knows firsthand the struggles of mental illness.

Calvin “DJ Tryfe,” Seino is hosting the first annual Viribus Ball on Jan. 19 to bring awareness to mental illness, health treatment in the Black community, particularly men. (Courtesy Photo)

“The Viribus Ball started and came to fruition, with my struggles surrounding mental health. And I know I’m not alone because 30 percent of African American men are treated for mental health, versus 50 percent of men in the entire country.  I have struggled with mental health. I still struggle. I still seek therapy, and unfortunately my community, the Black community, has as their remedy for mental health is usually just praying or fighting through it. And that’s not okay,” he told the AFRO in an exclusive interview. “So I’m hoping through the Viribus Ball we are able to bring awareness and normalize getting help, and I think that’s what’s important.”

About a year ago, Seino, a DJ who dedicates his work to bringing joy to others, was in a dark depression that kept him in the house and doubting life. 

“I had been not showering, not reaching out to friends and I used to tell myself at the time, ‘If I make it to 30, I’m going to do something special.’ The crazy part is I was speaking to myself with ‘if,’ and not ‘when,’” he said.

As he approaches the 30-year mark, Seino is launching the Viribus Ball to celebrate life, making it through the storm and bringing light to others through knowledge of mental health and resources to treat the problem.

“And now that I’m embarking on that moment, I thought the thing I would do is donate my birthday to a cause.  And so, thus, the Viribus Ball- instead of a birthday party that honored me, I’m honoring and bringing awareness to the cause,” he explained.  

Further, Seino hopes to inspire others who are in the depths of their mental health battles, or who might know others that need help.

“I made it my goal to get me out of where I was and find a new therapist, because I stopped going to therapy, and get myself to a place that I can talk about it and even put together this gala to hopefully inspire someone else,” Seino said.

No novice to fundraisers, Seino explained how he generally chooses to donate to foundations, “that already have roots on the ground and that are already working in the communities and spaces,” he wants to support. For this reason, he is donating to D.C. native Taraji P. Henson’s Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation.

“ I specifically picked Taraji’s foundation because: 1) Her foundation is geared towards African American men, it’s named after her father who struggled with mental health. 2) She’s a Howard alum; I am a Howard alum. 3) I’m focusing on Black men in the D.C. market and D.C. is home for Taraji, we even went as far as finding a venue in Southeast, D.C., which is a little more difficult to host a gala- ironically, I believe it’s pretty close to where she grew up.  So that we’re in the community, we’re in the space and surrounded around the people we want to support,” Seino said. “It just felt like a perfect fit to a beautiful puzzle,” he added.

Hosting the Viribus Ball is Real Housewife of Potomac Star Candiace Dillard, who is a longtime friend of Seino’s and a major champion for mental health awareness and treatment.

“Candiace and I have actually been friends for over 10 years. We originally met in the Gospel Choir at Howard. I knew her before she was a housewife, before she was even a wife, before she was Miss United States.  I was at her house when she was trying on her gown to compete, so we’ve been friends for a long time,” he said reflecting with joy. 

“Her mother owns a mental health practice, and Candiace, from that, is able to recognize signs in her friends, so she was one of my friends that told me, ‘You know you might need to get help.’  The night before I started that journey of getting anti-depressants, I was at her house, and this was maybe 10 years ago… So she’s seen me transform from where I was, to where I am today,” he said.

For more information and tickets to the Viribus Ball visit: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-viribus-ball-tickets-80304120787?ref=eios.