Teen’s emotional words spark conversation at women’s mental health summit in Memphis

Memphis, Tenn. — There are many people who have lost loved ones during the pandemic to coronavirus or another ailment but struggle with how to deal with the grief. Speaking just a few short sentences, a 16-year-old girl, speaking at First Baptist Church Broad, brought many in a room to tears.

It was just months ago, Gabrielle said, during the worst of the pandemic in Dec., that her father died from cancer.

“I kind of broke down the day before I started school because he would normally take me to school,” she said through tears, speaking through a microphone to a room of people at the church.

It was a revelation that led many to wrap her in hugs and surround her with prayer as she searched for answers on, precisely, how to address the pain that remained because of her loss. Similar questions about mental health also brought others to the Sistah Essential women’s mental health summit.

“It’s very hard to find it, so I’m wanting to bring more exposure to that, said Tajuana Jamerson, the organizer of the event and executive director of Sistah Essential, a non-profit.

A release for the event said that Sistah Essential “provides resources to the women community by creating platforms to share information about mental illness, how it affects us as a community and tools that can help us navigate through life such as support groups, therapy options, and more.”

Jamerson said she hopes to one day open a transition center as well.

The summit brought together experts from across multiple mental health disciplines while highlighting limited discussions about mental health within some black communities.

“We’re told that it’s not a good thing to talk about those things,” Jamerson said.

Speaking directly to Gabrielle when she broke down was Ariyana Rimson, the executive director of the Union Mission’s Moriah House in Memphis, where women come for services.

“Don’t be afraid of having bouts of depression, of having bouts of confusion,” Rimson told the girl.

Rimson said she believed the discussion went beyond the Black community.

“I don’t even think it’s just the African American community,” she said. “I think people of color—and even Caucasians—I just think it’s just not something we talk about because we think it’s just something that will go away.”