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Brothers for Change: Impactful Mental Health Workshops for Local Black Youth

June 17, 2024

Over the weekend of April 19-21, 2024, a groundbreaking collaboration between the Yale Child Study Center (YCSC) and Dixwell Q House was launched through a new mental health workshop series titled Brothers for Change and developed by YCSC second-year social work fellow Christian Edwards, LMSW.

The series, aimed at addressing the needs of Black male adolescents in a way that hadn't been done before, was part of Edwards role as a Viola Bernard Social Justice and Health Equity Fellow at the YCSC. “The idea behind the series was simple yet profound—to tackle the unique challenges that young males of color face in their mental wellness and overall well-being,” commented Edwards, who shared that his drive stemmed from his passion for working with black male adolescents, aiming to empower them to be their best selves.

“As a Black male myself, I reflected on the themes that I recall in my adolescence, and what I continue to observe in the young men I work with, seeking to address their needs with tailored programming,” he continued. Teaming up with the Dixwell Community House, known as the “Q House” and a beloved pillar in the New Haven community, the series offered a range of workshops tailored to meet the challenges of the involved youth and their adult caregivers, along with feedback and observations from Q House staff.

Workshop sessions were focused on topics ranging from mental health stigma to the impact of social media on masculinity, using music as a tool to navigate difficult emotions, and mastering wellness and self-care. It was important to Edwards that the youth and caregivers attending these workshops could see themselves reflected in the professionals who were present. As such, he convened an all-Black panel of mental health providers with current and former ties to the YCSC.

The youth in attendance were in conversation with Ayotunde Ayobello, MD; Durrell Snow, LCSW; and Edwards himself; while the caregivers were supported by Taryn Anderson, LCSW; Kristian Washington, MEd; and Belinda Oliver, MS. All in attendance had the opportunity to engage in an all-male panel discussion about men and mental health with these professionals, along with Yale Assistant Basketball Coach Brandon Sherrod. The panel was facilitated by Tara Davila, LCSW.

“The Viola Bernard fellows have each met the call of the fellowship in unique and important ways,” Davila commented. “Chris's vision to serve a consistently under-resourced group was actualized in collaboration with Q House and those they serve. Through this collaboration, they co-constructed a program that truly met a need in the community in a way the community wanted. Through the Viola Bernard funds, centering the voices of historically marginalized and under-resourced community members has been paramount – and Chris achieved this in his design and implementation. It was a joyful event, and I am grateful to Chris for building this bridge with the Q House that we can now strengthen and maintain.”

Carolina Parrott, the director of the YCSC advanced social work fellowship program, added, “Brothers for Change was an impactful and empowering event that kindled meaningful dialogue. The event fostered safe spaces to reflect on the meaning of mental health care for Black male youth, and ignited hope for Black male youth and their families! I celebrate Christian Edwards, the Q house, the panelists, and all who supported this work, for the intentionality and thoughtfulness behind this powerful community event. I hope this work will continue!”

This event marked the first collaboration with the Q House in which a clinic ventured into the community to facilitate such a program—an important step in building bridges with the New Haven community. The original Q House was opened in 1924 as a settlement house for African Americans moving north as part of the Great Migration. Though its doors were closed in 2003, it was reopened by a dedicated group of community activists in 2021, nearly 100 years after its inception. Today, the community house welcomes and provides resources and opportunities for young children, teens, adults, and senior citizens in the New Haven area.

Submitted by Crista Marchesseault on June 07, 2024