Grand opening of mental wellness center targeting Black women aims to meet growing need

CHICAGO (WLS) -- When Camesha Jones was in recovery from a mental health condition she said she didn't see many Black women.

Jones opened Sista Afya Community Mental Wellness Center in 2017 to serve the needs of Black women.

Today, Jones, who serves as the executive director at the center, celebrated the grand opening of a larger office in Chicago's South Shore neighborhood.

"A lot of people have this misconception that Black people and Black women don't want to engage in mental wellness care," Jones said. "We've just been able to connect with Black women in a way that is authentic and keeps them coming back."

Jones said the strong Black woman stereotype sometimes makes Black women less likely to seek out mental health support.

"Most of the people who come to us have been living with a mental health condition for over five years, so some of that may come from trying to push through things that you don't necessarily have to," Jones said.

Jones said she plans to expand from three therapists to six by the end of the year to meet the growing need of Black women in search of therapists who look like them.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker Latania Franklin describes herself as a human diary for Black women.

"Here at Sista Afya, it is all about them. They are seen. They are heard, and it's a space made just for them," Franklin said.

The mission of this mental wellness center is reflected in its name.

"Afya is a Swahili word that means to be healthy. It means to be well and sista is a word that we use in the Black community. It's a term of connection and endearment," Jones said.
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