First Lady Chirlane McCray announced on Monday the launch of Brothers Thrive
First Lady Chirlane McCray announced on Monday the launch of Brothers Thrive. Photo credit: Ed Reed/ Mayoral Photo Office

In an effort to expand and promote mental health and wellness in black communities, the city is launching Brothers Thrive, a volunteer effort led by African-American men to promote mental health literacy in their communities.

The coalition brings together six national service organizations to raise awareness about mental illness, substance misuse and the stigma associated with seeking treatment. First Lady Chirlane McCray announced the partnership on Monday at a press conference which was followed by the first round of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) trainings.

Brothers Thrive represents the same strength we witnessed this past December with Sisters Thrive: unity, collaboration and impact,” said McCray. “Both initiatives mark the first time that a major city has tackled mental health with the collaboration of these notable organizations, and collectively, I believe their partnership will lead to more and better services for African-American, immigrant and marginalized communities.”

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, cultural biases can prevent many African-Americans from accessing health care services. A history of inadequate treatment, exploitive testing and a lack of cultural competence by health professionals may explain why today, an estimated one-quarter of African-Americans seek mental health care compared to 40 percent of white Americans.

Within its first year, Brothers Thrive will work to create safe spaces all across the city for conversations, support and strategy building, and leverage the leadership of Black men to encourage their networks to be trained in Mental Health First Aid, an eight-hour public education program that teaches individuals how to recognize and respond to signs of mental distress and substance misuse.

The participating Brothers Thrive service organizations include Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc. and 100 Black Men.

Brooklyn Councilman Robert E. Cornegy Jr. welcomed the initiative.

“Ending the stigma of mental illness and educating more people about mental illness is critical to successfully addressing the dire need for mental health care, especially in our city’s black and brown communities,” said Cornegy. “As the former operator of an 18-bed facility to mentally-ill substance abusers, a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, and an elected representative of Bedford Stuyvesant and northern Crown Heights, I am proud to support this initiative, which I believe will make a profound positive impact on the lives of countless New Yorkers struggling with mental illness.”

Two years ago, McCray, who has been spearheading various mental health initiatives, launched ThriveNYC, the city’s comprehensive plan to address mental illness and substance misuse. Brothers Thrive will use existing resources of ThriveNYC to support its volunteer efforts.

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