New play tackles black women's mental health

For actress Michelle Taylor-Willis the new play "Dignity," feels hauntingly real.

"What it made me realize, is there are so many people, especially Black women suffering in silence," Taylor Willis says.

Running through a final rehearsal, before their March 30th performance, Taylor says the script really hit home for her.

"These aren't just words on paper," she says. "This stuff happens. We're watching it."

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, Black Americans are 20% more likely to experience a major mental illness than their white counterparts.

Major depression, AHDH, PTSD, and suicide are some of the most common mental health issues affecting African Americans.

Dignity focuses on the stories of women playwright Towonda Kilpatrick says she met at her local Starbucks coffee shop.

"They were talking about their issues, being depressed, having anxiety attacks," Kilpatrick says. "And. I thought, 'Okay, that is cool.' But then when they started talking about that they couldn't tell anybody because of who they were, or what they were doing, I decided I wanted to make it a play."

The script which touches on depression, substance abuse, and self-harm, feels especially real to Taylor Willis because as they were rehearsing, she learned a close friend had died from suicide.

"To lose a friend is one thing, but to lose a friend this way, it's a totally different type of hurt," she says. "It's a totally different type of pain. It's indescribable."

The women hope Dignity will spark conversation and give Black women (and men) a safe space to share their own stories.

"We will have doctors that will be there at the play that they can talk to and get information," Kilpatrick says. "So, we want people to come, and if they see themselves on stage, they can get help. If they can get help that night, that's what we're hoping."

Dignity will be performed Saturday, March 30, 2019, at 7 p.m. at the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel at Morehouse College. Mental health professionals will be on hand.

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