CLEVELAND — Nia Holland said trauma led her down a dangerous path, and she found herself in counseling before reaching middle school. During an episode of instability, Holland said she would cut herself; she even tried hanging herself.
“I was suicidal in elementary school after I got raped,” said Holland.
The daughter of a pastor, Holland said she was encouraged to supplement prayer and faith with mental health treatment. Holland said therapy sessions are a large reason she is still standing.
Now an adult, Holland has vowed to pull others out of depression and anxiety, by raising awareness about mental health.
“It’s just something about seeing people happy after I get done talking to them,” said Holland. “It gives them hope.”
She has partnered with the Cleveland Clinic to connect people with therapists, through her organization Mentally Health Talk. Monthly, the organization networks with the community and medical professionals.
Holland has especially placed an emphasis on pairing African Americans in need of help with African American medical professionals, like Dr. Tyffani Dent.
“About 9- percent of African American students attempt to hurt themselves, and they are more likely to enter a treatment facility than their white counterparts,” said Dent. “It’s disturbing, but it’s not surprising. I think that when we think about the issues that Black children experience in this country, we know that were more likely to have engagement from law enforcement, we know that were more likely to grow up in poverty, we know that they’re likely to experience other types of trauma. Even when we seek them, the services are not culturally competent, so we don’t come back. When we seek services, there is this tendency for people to try to act like all clients are the same, and don’t take into consideration their lived experiences. and when we’re looking at lived experiences, specifically within the Black community, the impacts of being Black in society impacts how we see the world, it impacts how people engage with us, it impacts how we talk about mental health and what that looks like.”
This story is part of A Better Land, an ongoing series that investigates Northeast Ohio's deep-seated systemic problems. Additionally, it puts a spotlight on the community heroes fighting for positive change in Cleveland and throughout the region. If you have an idea for A Better Land story, tell us here.