Lauren Carson: She’s Empowering African-American Girls

April 14 - On The Dot
FIRST THOUGHT: Change for the Better

When Viola Davis won the Oscar for best supporting actress in the film Fences, she delivered a raw and emotional acceptance speech about her impoverished childhood. She admitted to being shy, overweight and friendless.

We women have all had moments, even years, of self-doubt. For Viola, she found confidence on the stage and screen. Today, let Viola be a reminder to you that you too can evolve, grow stronger and achieve whatever you desire in life.

WOMEN IN NUMBERS: 50 Percent Higher

At On The Dot, we often discuss how the gender gap affects women in a variety of ways, but African-American women face an additional injustice. notes that this gap also seeps into the realm of mental health, with the depression rate among African-American women shown to be about 50 percent higher than the depression rate among Caucasian women. As the website indicates, the rates of mental-health problems are higher than average for African-American women because of psychological factors resulting directly from their experience as black Americans, including experiences of racism, cultural alienation, violence and sexual exploitation.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Lauren Carson, Founder and Executive Director of Black Girls Smile

The information I just shared with you is bound to get you raging, and it should. But what can we do about it? There are many ways to fight for women, and today’s Woman to Watch is doing her all to ensure that young African-American women are provided with the education, support and resources necessary to lead mentally healthy lives. Her name is Lauren Carson, and she created a wonderful nonprofit organization called Black Girls Smile.

While society often diminishes those with mental-health issues (After all, going to a therapist is still a running joke in sitcoms.), a lack of mental wellness can deeply affect a sufferer’s relationships, career and physical health, making it imperative that those enduring such struggles get help.

Lauren advocates for the removal of that long-held societal stigma and aims to make mental health a more approachable subject, especially for young black women. Her mission is to empower African-American women to take ownership of their mental health and stability. With that goal in mind, Black Girls Smile offers programs that center on three key objectives: increasing mental-health literacy, increasing coping skills and increasing self-care methods and techniques. Lauren’s organization also provides workshops designed to help address those objectives, including classes on yoga, meditation, positive decision-making, relationships, journaling, stress management, how to find a passion project and even college prep.

Lauren knows all too well the mental-health issues facing many African-American women. One reason it hits so close to home is because when she was diagnosed with clinical depression at the age of 15, she discovered a lack of supportive resources to help her cope. Within the African-American community, she says, mental-health issues often are seen as a weakness, and prayer is commonly identified as the key treatment method. But, as Lauren discovered firsthand, knowledge—and a little bit of support—can lead to healthier mental well-being.

Lauren explains there are three essential things that all minority women should know about mental health. First, she says, get educated about mental health, perhaps by engaging in curriculum from organizations like Mental Health First Aid, a program endorsed by former first lady Michelle Obama. Second, Lauren suggests gathering the resources that offer access to mental-health care, and having a game plan that includes more than simple health-insurance coverage. When facing a challenge, African-American women shouldn’t be reluctant to use resources like the Crisis Text Line. Lastly, she says, it’s paramount for those struggling and their loved ones to give and receive support.

During the last five years, Black Girls Smile has created an open and necessary dialogue among young black women about an issue often buried in that community. Thank you, Lauren, for establishing a long-lasting organization that gives African-American girls and women a little more hope.


I’ll leave you with this quote by American novelist and poet Alice Walker. She said:

“Don’t wait around for other people to be happy for you. Any happiness you get, you’ve got to make yourself.”

This is Melinda Garvey signing off until next time. Remember, ladies, empowered women empower other women. Share On the Dot so more women can have a voice. Thanks for getting ready with us.

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