Storytelling event aimed at engaging Philly men of color in conversations around mental health

     Tariq 'Black Thought' Trotter of The Roots (left) and  DJ and producer Rich Medina. (Charles Sykes/AP Photo amd Kim Scott/for WHYY)

    Tariq 'Black Thought' Trotter of The Roots (left) and DJ and producer Rich Medina. (Charles Sykes/AP Photo amd Kim Scott/for WHYY)

    Philadelphia officials want men of color to talk more openly about mental health.  And an event series  launching Friday aims to kick-start the conversation.

    As commissioner of Philadelphia’s department of behavioral health, Arthur Evans has learned what does not draw a crowd — asking people to come and talk about their mental health problems.

    “We might get 10 people,” joked Evans. “I’m being a little facetious, but what we have found is that using art, story telling is a reply-powerful way to engage communities. “

    So, to get better crowds for this series, his department has teamed up with First Person Arts to present a star-studded storytelling event,  that includes Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter of the Roots and Super Bowl champion Raheem Brock.

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    “What our field is recognizing is that we have to take a more public health approach to addressing mental health issues,” said Evans. “And that means we have to have strategies for engaging communities, educating communities, and really normalizing mental health issues.”

    Philadelphia veteran Russell Walker, one of the speakers, will share his experience of dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder.

    “Everybody tells you to just get over it, to just push it to the side and push through, and that’s not always possible,” he said. Walker said his advice for other people struggling with mental health issues is to find something they love, perhaps music or poetry, that could offer them a creative outlet.

    Evans said the event’s goal is to spread a message that it’s OK to seek help. Resources will be available for anybody seeking help with mental health issues or addiction.

    Walker will talk more about his partcipation in the event on next week’s episode of the WHYY podcast The Remix with James Peterson

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