Community members gather to break the stigma of mental health through storytelling | Health Issue | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Community members gather to break the stigma of mental health through storytelling

click to enlarge Miracle Jones shares her story during Soul Pitt Media and Storyburgh’s Mental Health Talk event at the Point Park University’s Center for Media Innovation. - PHOTO: RICCO J.L. MARTELLO
Photo: Ricco J.L. Martello
Miracle Jones shares her story during Soul Pitt Media and Storyburgh’s Mental Health Talk event at the Point Park University’s Center for Media Innovation.
Pittsburgh community organizer and activist Miracle Jones was only four years old when she started blaming herself for something that was clearly out of her control. Jones had asked her family to go out for ice cream, and on their way there, the sheriff stopped her family’s car and took away her father for six months, causing her to convince herself for years it was all her fault.

Jones was one of a group of Pittsburghers who shared their stories during “Mental Health Talk — Discussing Challenges and Overcoming Stigmas,” a community storytelling event last month hosted by local media outlets Storyburgh and Soul Pitt Media at Point Park University’s Center for Media Innovation.

“I know because I forgot to say goodbye, it’s not my fault that a person harmed themselves,” Jones said. She added that even though her adult self now knows thoughts like that are “ludicrous,” her four-year-old self still sometimes finds a way to creep back and internalize every negative thing that happens.


A total of seven storytellers shared their stories throughout the evening in an effort to reduce the stigma of mental health conditions and trauma. Participants were invited to share their experiences of living with a wide spectrum of mental health issues with the goal of inspiring others while creating a broader opportunity to service underrepresented populations in the region.

Kay Bey, CEO/Founder of Grind City Media, shared a personal story of family trauma and survival, and how she created hip-hop therapy, which serves as a powerful source of healing not only for her, but for all those who she helps work through trauma with her unique style of therapy.

She invited the audience to find their heartbeat, put their hand on it, then shout out, “I love me!”
click to enlarge Kay Bey shares her story during “Mental Health Talk — Discussing Challenges and Overcoming Stigma.” - PHOTO: RICCO J.L. MARTELLO
Photo: Ricco J.L. Martello
Kay Bey shares her story during “Mental Health Talk — Discussing Challenges and Overcoming Stigma.”
“That’s a little bit of hip-hop therapy for you,” Bey said. “That’s your beat. That’s your swag. That doesn’t come from anyone else.”

Mary Beth Spang, a psychology student at Carlow University, a former mental health therapist, and current mental health editor at Storyburgh, described how she discovered she had OCD and how she overcame academic and mental health challenges. She emphasized the importance of self-care and serves as an example of what can be accomplished by seeking help, therapy, and treatment.


“Being imperfect is OK,” said Spang. “More than OK. It’s inevitable, factual, it’s part of being human. It’s OK.”

Professor Robert McInerney, founder of Mobile Thriving Respite and a professor of psychology at Point Park University, urged the audience to recognize the importance of normalcy for our homeless neighbors, who may often be experiencing mental health issues themselves.

DeAuntae Clark, entrepreneur, semi-pro football coach, and a father of six, explained how depression impacted his family. He shared how seeking professional help and being receptive to treatment options can be life changing, as it brought him closer to his children. DeAuntae urged people to help those in crisis. “Allow yourself to be the outlet that people can talk to,” he said. “Please, please, do not let depression take another soul.”

Chelsea Chase, a full-time therapist at Duquesne University, adjunct professor of psychology at Point Park University, and mental health advocate, discussed her family history with mental health battles, including having a bipolar father, and emphasized the importance of communication and loving people through difficult times. She also explained why fear can be a good thing when kept in perspective.

“Sometimes the things we are most afraid of are the things we most need to talk about,” Chase said.


Sherris Richards, a wife, mother of two, educator, and certified health coach, co-founded the North Dakota Autism Connection with her husband Tony, an international motivational speaker. Her story of denial regarding her daughter’s diagnosis of Autism and their eventual acceptance served as a guide and source of strength for parents facing similar situations.

To watch the full recording of the program, visit 
This story was produced as part of "Pittsburgh's Missing Bridges," a collaborative reporting project by the Pittsburgh Media Partnership.

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