Paris Alston: This is Morning Edition from GBH. We often hear it said: we are experiencing a mental health crisis. According to recent data from the JAMA Health Forum, use of mental health services by millions of commercially insured and American adults has jumped nearly 40% in recent years. These patients are seeking help for everything from anxiety and depression to substance abuse disorders and relationship struggles. Along with this, people are talking more and more about our mental health, and this year we’re joining the conversation with a new series called Awakening to Wellness. Once a month, we will discuss a timely topic and how it impacts our mental health and our communities. Our partner in this effort is wellness platform PureSpark, founded by Nieisha Deed, who now joins our studio. Niesha, it’s great to have you here. Thank you for joining us.
finish me deed: Good morning. It’s great to be here. Thank you for your hospitality.
Alstom: First, tell us more about PureSpark.
deed: Yes. So PureSpark is really an organization focused on mental health equity, right? We hear about health equity. But this is really focused on Boston’s Black population and helping them on their health journey. So we have a health directory. We also share wellness activities. We have our own curated wellness activities. On the other hand, I also do a lot of speaking engagements.
Alstom: Why did you create PureSpark?
deed: Oh well, I’ll try to keep it short. First, I am a person who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2007. 10 years later, in 2017, I had my own crisis and I didn’t want to be here anymore. On top of that, I’ve had four family members die by suicide. I just feel angry and frustrated. If you look at the statistics, in terms of black Americans, black people living in America, it’s clear. A report released last year by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that as the overall suicide rate in the United States decreases, they are starting to see an increase in the black population, especially among black men and black teenagers. So there’s a lot of focus overall, but I think we have to be more specific because we need to take care of the people that look like the people they’re serving.
Alstom: Of course, everything we discuss in this series applies to everyone, as we all have mental health issues. But we also notice and want to address this imbalance. I’m really excited because we’re going to be talking to a lot of mental health professionals, covering a range of different topics, and building a toolkit for people to use. Of course, our conversation doesn’t mean it’s over. They are not a substitute for treatment. But we do hope that these will be a starting point. So what do you hope people take away from this?
deed: I am excited. Just looking at some of the topics, I think they’re going to be able to help a lot of people really be able to talk about it not only from a perspective of lived experience like myself, but also having a clinician and holistic perspective as a practitioner. This is a collaborative effort. We cannot focus all our energy on the therapist. We don’t have enough therapists. You know, we also need people like news anchors and news publications to get involved because this is a serious issue that affects us all.
Alstom: So, Nieisha, one of the things we do with every guest is ask them to give us a yes. So I’m going to put you in a bit of a pickle here, but I’ll start by asking you to share one.
deed: Oh, man, I love – first of all, I love affirmations. I think my sure thing is to believe in myself. I think people often think I’m very confident and that’s because I believe in myself. Believing in myself allows me to do the work that I do.
Alstom: Well, he is Nieisha Deed, the founder of PureSpark. Niesha, thank you so much. I’m so excited to be on this journey with you.
deed: identical. Thank you very much for having me.
Alstom: In our first part, we’ll discuss the ups and downs of dating and relationships. If you would like to weigh in on this topic, please text us at 617-300-2008 or email [email protected]. If you or someone you know is in crisis, you can call, text or chat at 988, the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. You’re listening to Morning Edition from GBH.