We’ve all heard the saying, “I need to take a mental health day.” Imagine being young, black and fabulous with the world being yours for the taking and this saying becomes your life’s purpose. That is what drives Camesha Jones. Camesha created a resource named Sista Afya. Sista Afya is Chicago based Mental Wellness organization whose purpose is to bring awareness of Whole Self Mental Wellness for the Black Woman. Camesha connects Black women to mental wellness services through education, provider resource connections, and community support.
Birthing Sista Afya started in the mind of Camesha while she was finishing up grad school. “I tried to think of a name that was clearly for Black Women one and two that connected to our diaspora. Afya is a Swahili word that means healthy; translated to also mean to be free of psychological and physical illness.” In an age of hashtags and author unknown quotes being what motivates many of her peers, why would a twenty-something grad student want to take on such a challenge? Simply because Camesha understands the importance of Black Women being free to get their mental well-being in tip-top shape.
Living with Bipolar Disorder, has given Camesha the freedom she needed to advocate and eradicate the stigmatization of the disorder, giving Sistas a safe place to come out of the shadows. As a business owner and leader in her community, Camesha explains “Sista Afya is the name and is for Black Woman but it connects to the vision I have for Black Women to experience liberation and freedom through mental wellness.” As it is with many areas of ignorance, not having a true understanding of mental illness can lead to ill-informed and slanderous diagnosis of people.
That hot-tempered or sluggish friend or family member may be just that but throwing around your non-clinical diagnosis is not helpful. On the other hand they very well may be dealing with your assessment and it’s our/your responsibility to understand what it is you/we are saying. Camesha explains, “What people don’t understand about Bipolar Disorder is, it’s a neuro cognitive mental disorder that is quite different than a lot of others that deal with a chemical balance disorder.”
Camesha doesn’t profess to be the face of Black Women’s Mental Wellness, but she is a champion of the cause. As a matter of fact she often surprises people when she shares her story with them. “In my circle I have about 8 friends that also have Bipolar Sisorder and we are all doing amazing things. When people see us they are shocked. The reason people don’t know about us is because of the stigma.” Clicked up with her support team, Camesha boasts she and her friends are living breathing testaments of their brilliance, the boldness and most importantly their bad-ass-ness. “Yes we think differently but we are capable.”
Whether it’s her work as a Social Worker, through her website, http://www.sistaafya.com or community events, Camesha Jones is most definitely making an impact and broadening the conversation about Mental Wellness being a whole body experience. Sista Afya has a specific approach; it isn’t only about treating the surface issues it is about taking action steps to have women be mentally well in their entirety.
To learn more about Camesha Jones and Sista Afya: