The IMARA Project brings an Africentric approach to mental health programming for Black youth which makes it different from other programs, Christiana explored.
Since it’s next to impossible to find Black care providers, she realized she never would have looked for this kind of program or even imagined it existed.
Even as a recent psychology graduate, Christiana had little knowledge, as a young Black woman, she had unique risk factors for mental illness – risk factors rooted in the systemic anti-Black racism she and others face in daily interactions.
When she learned from The IMARA Project that the low mood and isolation she was experiencing, is vicarious grief – a heartache she carries in response to high-profile, anti-Black racist incidents in the headlines, she felt relief more than anything else, because it finally made sense to her.
“I recall feeling relieved when I recognized what I was feeling and especially when I realized I was not alone, as a young person – that young black people, in my community, were suffering from the same pain and despair,” she says.
She never missed an IMARA Thursday evening session because the staff coordinators made it a welcoming space and she truly wanted to be there – no matter what! Christiana says the program was unlike anything else she’d found in her search for answers and support. “I learned to appreciate and understand the impact of other people’s lived experiences, even when they were unlike my own,” she says.
Christiana is now an Admin Assistant/Program Facilitator for the IMARA Project at TAIBU Community Health Centre. She is keen to share her story because she believes the project offers youth exactly what they need, even when they don’t realize what they are looking for. She wants to help them connect with the support, love, care, and sense of community this program provides.