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Local Mental Health Program Receives Grant to Help Young Girls of Color

Staff report

Dr. Melany J. Silas (Photo supplied by M. Silas)

The Rochester Area Community Foundation (RACF) has awarded a $20,000 grant to a local mental health initiative.

BreatheDeep, Inc., founded by Melany J. Silas, Ph.D., received the RACF grant for its Changing Our Narrative: Conversations About Mental Health program for young girls of color.

The the funding announcement came on Dec. 15, 2021, and Silas described the project as being “designed to provide young girls of color with a safe space where they can explore and navigate their grief, loss, and mental health, whilst learning self-care through new behavioral responses to stressors and trauma.”

Silas is a University of Rochester graduate, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Health and Society and a Master of Science degree in Counseling and Human Development. She is also a graduate of Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School’s Master of Divinity program. Silas earned her doctor of philosophy degree (Ph.D.) with a focus on counseling and counselor education at Syracuse University. Her doctoral study centered on mental health help-seeking and self-care strategies of Black women.

Silas is BreatheDeep, Inc.’s president and chief executive officer.

“We understand that mental wellness is a fundamental part of leading a healthy and thriving life. African Americans face mental health challenges at a higher rate than other groups, and are least likely to have access to resources and receive treatment, especially Black women,” Silas said.

Silas expressed “extreme grateful[ness]” to RACF for funding the BreatheDeep’s program. “I am glad that BreatheDeep, Inc. can provide young ladies with the opportunity and access to counselors who look like them, as well as self-care practices to promote overall wellness,” said Silas. “BreatheDeep is committed to renewing and restoring the hearts and minds of young girls through reflection and reconnection.”

BreatheDeep’s Changing Our Narrative: Conversations About Mental Health program is in partnership with Rochester’s Young Women’s College Prep Charter School, according to information provided by Silas. It is an eight-week course supported by community counselors, program facilitators, and counselor educators of color [to] assist participants in breaking down cultural barriers such as stigma, silence, and suppression.

BreatheDeep, Inc. is a research-based nonprofit organization that provides restorative wellness information and resources to help marginalized communities create strategies of self-care, to increase overall wellness, and to reduce or mitigate that impact of systemic and historical oppression, chronic stress and generational, personal, and vicarious trauma.

The program’s funding source, RACF, engages philanthropists and community partners to improve our eight-county region by promoting philanthropy that helps to create an equitable community and strengthen our region’s vitality.