South Bend woman uses art to start mental health discussion

SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- May is National Mental Health Month and one local woman is using art to shine a light on African American communities and how mental health is viewed. 

Aespyne Brooks taught herself how to paint as a way to help with her anxiety. She said she’s dealt with anxiety since she was a child and in recent years has spoken up about it.

“It was just these are things that we go through and you have to you know push through,” Brooks said. “And feel like you can only push through so long before it affects you know your personality or your other relationships.”

Brooks said her story is similar to others in the African American community who feel something is wrong but also feel like they have no way to get help. 

“It’s particularly sad, I believe in communities of color because we see it happen consistently over time, generation after generation,” said Dr. Dé Bryant, a local clinical psychologist. 

In Indiana, more than 50 percent of adults who have has any type of mental illness say they haven’t gotten any treatment. Dr. Bryant said for communities of color that percentage is unknown.

She said there’s a distrust in communities of color toward mental health professionals because many people feel doctors can’t relate to their problems. 

“So, I decided to do a project about mental health, specifically in the black community, because it’s a topic we don’t talk about,” said Brooks. 

She used her knowledge in art to paint portraits of local black South Bend residents who are experiencing depression, anxiety, or disassociation. 

“Those are just things that I decided not to be worried about anymore, just for my own personal health and I just want to encourage others to do the same thing,” Brooks said.

Brooks said she is working with the St. Joseph County Public Library in setting up a program focused on teaching emotional literacy to local youth.

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