Dispelling the Stigma – Mental Health While Black

Black adults in the U.S. are more likely than white adults to report persistent symptoms of
emotional distress, according to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health.
Yet, communities of color continue to face many barriers including socioeconomic disparities, racism, and social stigmas when it comes to accessing mental healthcare. In a recent study, NAMI found that 63% of Black people believe that a mental health condition is a sign of personal weakness.

One local organization, DeeDee’s Cry, is working to break through the barriers of accessibility and dispel the stigma. We spoke with Founder & Executive Director, Tanoy (Toy) Burton, who started the non-profit organization in 2017 after finding herself frustrated with the lack of resources available for mental health and suicide prevention in the Black community. “On these websites, I didn’t see anyone who looked like me. Where their events were taking place, I felt like they weren’t intended for someone who lived in Roxbury, Dorchester, or Mattapan, communities of color. I wanted suicide prevention and mental health education for people of color, and accessible to communities of color.”

DeeDee’s Cry was named after her sister, Denita Shayne Morris (DeeDee), who died by suicide in 1986 when she was twenty-three years old. “I knew immediately that I would name the organization after her. Having been suicidal myself for a period in my life, it was like crying and no one was listening. That is why I named it DeeDee’s Cry. We can no longer hear the cries of others and do nothing.”

The mission of DeeDee’s Cry is to provide resources and education on the importance of mental health and wellness within communities of color by collaborating with organizations and agencies to create events, programs, projects, and activities within communities of color that are centered on family, mental health, and wellness. One of the greatest needs right now, Burton feels, is access to Black therapists who are able to accept new clients. “Most people are more comfortable speaking to someone who looks like them and has a cultural understanding.”

This year DeeDee’s Cry is hosting their first annual summit, Mental Health While Black Summit taking place on Friday, February 18th, 2022 at Encore Boston Harbor in Everett, MA. “What I want to accomplish with this event is to be intentional about Black mental health. I want this to be a space to normalize the conversation. I want this to be the space where residents, community partners, grassroots organizations, clinical professionals, and elected officials can come together and learn from one another. I want this to be a space of learning, healing, and community.”

We applaud Toy’s leadership in breaking the stigma around mental health in communities of color and look forward to continuing to deepen our support of DeeDee’s Cry.