By Brittney Johnson, AFRO Intern
Baltimore native Melony Hill has created a safe and intimate space for Black women to learn, heal, and thrive. Her brainchild, Crazy Like A Fox, an empowerment tour has been widely received this summer in major cities like Atlanta, Charlotte, Philadelphia, and most recently Baltimore, Md. at the Impact Hub. Over brunch, panel discussions and healing activities, Hill uses her story to bring awareness and impact the lives of black women who suffer, treat, or care for someone with mental illness.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, many African Americans have trouble recognizing the signs and symptoms of mental health conditions, yet adult African Americans are 20 percent more likely to report serious psychological distress than their white counterparts. African Americans living below poverty are three times more likely to report serious psychological distress than those living above poverty, according to MentalHealthAmerica.net.
To say the least, Hill’s past experience with mental illness is contextualized in the statistics that disproportionately point to the historically unique and considerable challenges accessing mental health services. Once counted out by society due to emotional instabilities and a traumatic upbringing stemming from domestic violence, sexual assault and more, Hill is familiar with stigma, limited access to treatement, as well as the impact of being misinformed about mental health.
In 2010, Melony was diagnosed with a slew of emotional illnesses such as depression, anxiety disorder, PTSD, and dissociative identity disorder. To add to her daily struggles, Melony also was diagnosed with chronic pain from Fibromyalgia. Never one to let an obstacle deter her from her goals, over the last two years, Melony has self-published eight books, written for multiple publications — online and in print–and launched Stronger Than My Struggles, an organization that aims to connect other survivors like herself to transformational practices that support maintaining positive mental health, in addition to living a fulfilling life.
“In order for us as black women to take back our power, the first thing black women need to realize we have no control over other people’s perception of us,” Hill told the AFRO. “…Because we have been taught to be superwoman, we have to put our cape on every day and go and fight [societies stigmas,]… and it is really hard when you’re taught that you cannot have chaos in the middle of that.”
Crazy Like A Fox tour aims to bring healing and understanding to attendees about issues often left unspoken and feared through the written and spoken word, links to resources and support services to survivors from all walks of life. The tour is co-hosted by Francheska “Fancy” Felder founder of SwagHer magazine, an empowerment and lifestyle publication aimed to uplift and educate the Black community. Rene Brooks, founder of Black Girls Lost Keys and blogger for Black women with ADHD is the tour’s featured speaker.
“This event exposed me to more of the issues that are going on within the African-American community and it has helped me to see that there needs to be much more education concerning [mental health]issues,” said Baltimore native Kenya McCarter, 40.
“Based on what we’ve witnessed on this tour, a lot of the issues [we face] are deeply rooted within families from generations, and that not only should there be conversations among us culturally, but families must get together and start talking more.”
AFRO Managing Editor Tiffany Ginyard contributed to this story.