NYC’s First Lady Helms New Mental Health Initiative For Black Women

By Victoria Kim 12/15/17

The initiative aims to raise awareness and de-stigmatize the conversation around mental health and substance use disorder.

Chirlane McCray
Chirlane McCray

Chirlane McCray, the First Lady of New York City and wife of Mayor Bill de Blasio, launched Sisters Thrive on Monday (Dec. 11), the latest offshoot of her city-wide mental health initiative ThriveNYC.

“Sisters Thrive taps into the tradition to promote wellness, de-stigmatize mental illness and develop a more culturally competent mental health workforce,” said McCray, according to Amsterdam News. “Sisters Thrive leaders recognize that so much more can be achieved when organizations come together for a common cause.”

The initiative brings together the women of six historically black service organizations: Jack and Jill of America, Eastern Area of The Links, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority.

The idea is to empower the black community, through black women, to de-stigmatize the conversation around mental health and substance use disorder. “It's hard for me to imagine any group, any demographic, that is more deeply involved in terms of service to the community than these women,” said the first lady, according to The Root.

The goal of Sisters Thrive is to train 10,000 black New Yorkers in Mental Health First Aid, and create a ripple effect of mental health awareness and empowerment within the black community.

“We all know what to do if someone is bleeding, if somebody fractures a body part,” said McCray. “But we don’t know what to do if someone has a panic attack or someone is suffering from depression. These are everyday skills that everyone should have.” These skills can be life-saving, but are not normally prioritized.

Mental health touches every part of life, and investing in it is investing in the “overall health of our citizens,” explained McCray. 

Mental health awareness is a cornerstone of McCray’s role in her husband’s administration. She was recognized in the New York Times this past October for “redefining the position” of the city’s first lady. Since de Blasio’s time in office, McCray has led the administration’s multi-million dollar initiatives to “reimagine mental health services” in New York City. 

“My job is to make systemic change,” she told the Times

With ThriveNYC reporting that about 8% of New Yorkers experience symptoms of depression each year, and that 8% of NYC public high school students report attempting suicide, the first lady has her work cut out for her.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr