ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- Between the global pandemic, the fight for racial equality and polarizing politics, the last year and a half has put a strain on many people’s mental health. For Black women, that strain is often constant, but rarely talked about, until now.
A St. Louis filmmaker is sharing stories of struggle and breakthrough inspired by her own battle with depression. The stigmas and stereotypes will say there is an expectation for Black women to be strong all the time.
Sharee Silerio said throughout history, Black women have been responsible for their households, other people’s households and have been expected to handle it all with grace.
The dark reality is, Black women are not immune to mental health struggles. That truth comes to light in Silerio’s new documentary called “Black Girl, Bleu".
Silerio grew up in Florissant and developed a passion for documenting life’s moments early on.
“One of my outlets was using the camcorder to make films of my sister and her friends, of me singing and dancing,” she said.
The inspiration for Sharee’s latest work started with her own battle.
“My uncle was my refuge; he was the one person I could talk about anything and everything.”
Her uncle passed away in 2016. Sharee said he’d struggled with his mental health all his life, but it was never talked about in her family.
“I didn't realize until I was an adult that he probably left his home maybe five times; I can count on my hand. He dealt with social anxiety and some other things.”
After his death, Sharee, like many people, tried to keep moving and suppress the sadness, but about a year later the grief consumed her and Sharee said she found herself in a dark depression. She tried to lean on friends for support, but said she was met with a reaction, no one struggling with their mental health should hear.
“I heard things like ‘you’re ungrateful for being depressed and you don't have a reason to be depressed, it's not that bad.”
She sought professional help from a therapist and realized she never wanted another woman to feel alone in their depression. So, she started her mission to give Black women space to talk about how they feel.
“I felt like I didn't use my voice. I was silenced by sigma and what other people thought about mental illness.”
“Black Girl, Bleu” was filmed last fall. In the film, five women intimately open up about their struggles with mental health. Sharee’s hope is that other women will hear the stories, know they’re not alone and how they can get help.
“I want them to know it's okay to seek healing and help for whatever you're going through, and your story matters, your pain matters, and your healing is important.”
Sharee’s call to action goes beyond the documentary, she’s also started the, “Black Girl, Bleu Mental Health Fund. It’s an initiative to offer free therapy sessions for Black women in St. Louis area. Since July she's helped 6 women, but she hopes to help thousands.
"The Black Girl, Bleu virtual community is a digital space for Black women to talk about their mental health. Whether that's the trauma they've experienced, what they're currently going through or trying to overcome.
It is just a safe space for us to be ourselves, with out judgement, fear or shame," explained Silerio.
They host meetings at least once a week and each member is offered two free therapy sessions. To join the community, click here.