ATLANTA — Hundreds of parents and their kids came out for school supplies, food, and fun at a block party in northwest Atlanta Sunday, but the significance of it goes beyond games and backpacks.
Organizers hope to make an impact on mental health, particularly in the Black community. They're helping kids and parents start off the school year on the right track both mentally and physically.
Jasmine King has her hands full as the mom of five kids ranging in age from nine to 14.
The family, which includes four girls and one boy, spent their day at the block party in Atlanta's Vine City neighborhood.
“We also want to equip them with mental health resources so that they can take them to the school year," Ursula Berger said.
Ursula Berger is with the Confess Project, which put on the event.
“It's fine to have pens and pencils, but it's also to learn good grounding techniques as far as yoga, meditation, how to ground themselves, effective communication," Berger said.
The Atlanta-based nonprofit is the country's first mental health awareness movement targeting the Black community. It has trained more than 1,400 barbers across the country to become certified Mental Health Advocates.
“In the Black community, talking about mental health can be a taboo subject," Berger said.
King wants to break that stigma and makes a point to talk to her kids about their mental health.
"We normally sit and have conversations just on how they’re feeling, if something made them feel down, how they went about it," King said.
Being able to spend time together and talk about their feelings means the world to King's kids.
“If an emergency happens, what should I do or if I’m nervous or something," 11-year-old Zyair Steele said.
“It makes me feel happy because some kids out here don’t have parents to go to or have parents that they can talk to," 13-year-old Janila Carpenter said.
“lt makes me feel good because I have somebody to count on and talk to," 10-year-old Da'Mya Steele said.
The sweet funnel cakes weren't the only good thing at the block party for this family. They treasure the family's relationship and have both one-on-one and group conversations about their mental health.
“When you’re mentally not there, it’s okay to talk to somebody about it," King said. "It’s not good to hold it in because depression is real, and there is help out there.”
The Confess Project encourages people to take care of their mental health by expressing their feelings, whether it's through spoken word or journaling. They also encourage people to find their own outlet for stress, whether it's yoga, working out or something else.
The Black population is more likely to die by suicide and have feelings of hopelessness than the white population, according to the organization Mental Health America.