By Dr. Stacey Jones
The Mary Ellen Strong Foundation (MESF) was created to preserve the legacy of Dr. Mary Ellen Strong who was a publisher, marketing expert, serial entrepreneur, political consultant and inspirational speaker. She was a unique, talented, complicated and powerful force. This organization is inspired by her years of service to the Black community. Our goal is to strengthen the community by expanding the network of mental health providers committed to providing healing in the community. We at MESF believe that a strong spirit and a strong mind is at the foundation of a strong community.
Over the past few years, there has been a movement to promote mental health awareness. As part of this national conversation, there have been numerous efforts to address the stigma related to mental illness in general and in the Black community specifically. With these increased efforts to destigmatize mental illness, we are now experiencing a shift as more and more people are seeking mental health treatment. This shift has exposed another problem, the shortage of Black licensed mental health providers. The shortage of Black, licensed mental health providers is the problem that the Mary Ellen Strong Foundation is working to solve.
MESF is working to address the shortage of Black, licensed mental health providers via three vehicles: 1) The MESF Mental Health Professional Development Program; 2) MESF’s Wellness Retreats which offer culturally centered programming for Black mental health providers and 3) The Directory of Black Psychotherapists for Minnesota and Wisconsin housed on its website.
MESF hosted its first Mental Health Wellness Retreat for Black providers last year. The goal of the retreat was to build community and to combat the burnout and compassion fatigue that often leads to people leaving the field prematurely. By retaining and extending the careers of those already serving the community, we have more Black clinicians available to provide services and to aid in the development of the next generation of clinicians.
MESF’s Mental Health Professional Development program provides scholarship, mentorship and professional growth opportunities to African American graduate students pursuing degrees in mental health and for those in the early stages of their careers in mental health.
MESF programming would not be possible without the generosity of its Mentors, Advisory Board Members, Patrons and Sponsors. MESF would like to thank its Mentors: Thomasina Jenkins, LCSW; Kia Holloway, MS, LPC; Charlotte Mayfield, LCSW; Arnitta Holliman, MS, LPC and Esperanza Harris, MS, LPC for their gift of time, energy, expertise and heart to the MESF Scholars. MESF expresses gratitude for its Wisconsin-based Advisory Board Members: Dr. Khyana Pumphrey, Dr. Alisia Moutry, Dr. Sheri Johnson, Dr. Kweku Ramel Afyriki Smith and Dr. Yvonne Bell-Gooden. MESF would also like to thank its program patrons, SVI International, Youthprise and the Catalyst Initiative of the Minneapolis Foundation as well as the Helen Bader School of Social Welfare at UWM and the Office of Violence Prevention for sponsoring its upcoming Mental Health Scholarship Luncheon.
If you are interested in working with MESF or if you have any questions about programming, please contact the foundation through the website (see below). You can also support MESF’s work through financial donations. All money donated is tax exempt as MESF is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. https://maryellenstrongfoundation.org/
Dr. Stacey Jones is a Clinical Psychologist. She is the Founder and Executive Director of the Mary Ellen Strong Foundation. MESF currently has programming in Wisconsin and Minnesota.