Women's Journal

Breaking Barriers: Cerissa A. Brown Shaping the Future of Mental Health

Breaking Barriers: Cerissa A. Brown Shaping the Future of Mental Health
Photo Courtesy: Gladys Brown

By: Beena Yusuf SHE Magazine USA

The story of Cerissa A. Brown is a shining example of strength and perseverance, a narrative that powerfully intersects personal struggle, unwavering faith in Christ, and a mission to transform mental health advocacy. Her journey, which began with confronting individual mental illnesses during her adolescence, has unfolded into a remarkable tale of courage, leadership, and profound change.

In 2008, Cerissa courageously opened up in a Facebook post about her struggle with holiday depression, revealing her desire to retreat from the world during Thanksgiving and Christmas. Cerissa faced significant backlash from her family, the Black community, and church members following her honest expression about her struggle with holiday depression on Facebook. 

However, this challenging response became a pivotal moment in her life, igniting a determination to confront and change the stigmas associated with mental health in the Black community. Cerissa actively addressed both the “strong Black woman” stereotype and the need to dispel doctrinally unsound beliefs in Christianity about mental health. Committed to breaking down these barriers, she used her experiences to fuel her advocacy and education efforts. She became a vocal and influential force in reshaping perceptions and encouraging open dialogue about mental health issues within the Black community and among Christians.

This experience laid the groundwork for Cerissa’s bold foray into the political arena in 2021, where she ran for Mayor of Birmingham, AL, on a Mental Health Platform. Dissatisfied with the city’s handling of mental health issues, particularly the lack of diversion of people with mental illness to mental healthcare instead of jail and the need for better mental health sensitivity training in the police department, Cerissa felt compelled to act. The current mayor and police department had ignored her calls and concerns, and ignoring Cerissa was not an option she tolerated. While her campaign did not result in an electoral victory, it was crucial in elevating mental health discourse in public policy in the City of Birmingham. Cerissa’s campaign journey was more than a political statement; it demonstrated her strategic leadership and unwavering commitment to making mental health a public priority.

Following her political endeavors, in 2023, Cerissa channeled her passion and insights into founding Reecee’s Reach. This nonprofit, christened to support the mental health of Black women, quickly grew into a vital community resource. Under Cerissa’s empathetic and skillful guidance, Reecee’s Reach has become synonymous with culturally competent care and effective advocacy, reflecting the very essence of Cerissa’s mission.

In 2024, her journey took another significant turn with the establishment of Cerissa A. Brown & Associates. As Founder, CEO, and Mental Health Consultant, Cerissa is leading the corporation in addressing crucial areas of mental health. Her efforts in education, crisis intervention, and community engagement testify to her versatile and integrated approach, signifying her profound impact on the mental health landscape.

The anticipation surrounding her forthcoming devotional book, “Sacred Echoes: A 30-Day Reflective Journey of Faith and Mental Health,” speaks volumes about her influence as a thought leader. This devotional journal hybrid, combining Christian insights with practical mental health strategies, is poised to offer a unique perspective on mental health recovery, echoing Cerissa’s commitment to integrating diverse approaches to wellness.

Cerissa’s academic pursuits, including her work toward a Doctorate in Social Work, are complemented by her involvement in leading organizations like the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and the American Psychological Association (APA). These associations and her dedication to education highlight the depth of her expertise and her position at the forefront of mental health advocacy.

In her personal journey, Cerissa has embraced an integrated approach to managing her mental health recovery. Combining therapy, medication, and her strong faith in God, she highlights the importance of a diverse approach to her mental health care. Her own story of triumph and proactive management of her mental health has become a source of inspiration, symbolizing strength, hope, and the power of perseverance.

Cerissa A. Brown’s life story transcends the narrative of overcoming adversity; it is an inspiring tale that intertwines empowerment, health, and wellness. Her work and life journey offer profound motivation to others, encouraging them to confidently embrace their mental health, guided by Christ and unwavering determination.

Published by: Martin De Juan

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