Local Cafe Brings Mental Health Awareness to Urban Communities – CBS Chicago

CHICAGO (CBS) — A local coffee shop wants to raise awareness about the stigma of mental health for the black and brown communities.

It’s called coffee, hip hop and mental health. CBS 2’s Shardaa Gray takes a peek inside the upcoming new storefront.

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“Trust the Process”

Words written by employees who want to see them come to fruition in the new coffee, hip hop and mental health storefront are words Christopher LeMark lives by.

“The café is a beacon of hope, a place of refuge. It’s a symbol of, look, where I’m from,” Lemark said.

He founded the organization because of his own struggles with his mental health.

“I survived three suicide attempts, I fought inside, I grew up on Chicago’s South Side, never knew my parents. Abused as a child. I just didn’t really know how to deal with life,” he said.

So he spoke to a therapist to deal with his inner demons.

“Hip hop was my first form of therapy. And if it wasn’t for hip hop, I would have killed myself a long time ago,” he said.

In 2019, he opened the cafe, which stayed open on the South Side for less than a year due to COVID.

“We were no longer able to do the events, which was a music and discussion event that allowed us to interact with the people, with therapists and advocates.”

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Then a miracle. Clothing giant Lululemon offered LeMark a spot in its North Side store – rent-free – so it could temporarily reopen.

Lululemon opened his doors for him to temporarily occupy space, and in April of this year he will open Normalize Therapy Cafe.

Coffee, HipHop, and Mental Health is currently based in a space to free your mind and soul that will soon be converted into a shop near Belmont and Sheffield.

“The moment we open this, we’re not going to be helping just hundreds of people, we’re going to be helping thousands,” LeMark said.

COVID-19 had a knock-on effect on everyone, but the Heartland Alliance’s Social Impact Research Center says 44 percent of adult Black women had slightly higher rates of depression and anxiety than the national average, which is 39 percent.

Young Latina women were three and a half times as likely to need counseling or therapy but not receive it as the Illinois average.

1 in 4 people ages 18 to 24, nearly 1 in 5 Latinos, and more than 1 in 7 Black people said they had seriously considered suicide in June 2020.

“I’m not surprised people wanted to kill themselves. I get it, I get it, but I’m trying to give people hope. On the other side, there’s hope,” LeMark said.

LeMark says they’ve helped 82 people find therapists and 93 people are currently on their waiting list.

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The organization uses money from coffee and merchandise sales, donations and grants to help people see therapists through Normalize Therapy University.

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