Military veteran takes on new mission: mental health awareness

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Barjohn Lee is a veteran who served four years in the U.S. Air Force and two years in the National Guard and has struggled with mental health.

[LINK: Mental Health Resources]

"I was diagnosed with depression at 13, and then I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 16,” she said. “So, of course, when I was in the military, I still had my episodes.”

Lee said she has three children who have watched her struggle, and she said she finally got help since she was discharged from the military.

In 2015, she said her diagnoses became so overwhelming she thought about dying by suicide.

"I felt like I was a failure, like I was in the way of my children’s growth, so I was, like, ‘Show me a sign if it’s for me to live another day lord. Show me a sign,’" Lee said. "My phone rang within a minute and on the other end, the person was, like, ‘Hey, I’m just calling to check on you’ and it was at the moment, I knew God had heard me."

That same year, Lee started the nonprofit SolidShe, which is dedicated to promoting mental wellness for teenage girls and women through advocacy, education and service."

Lee's non-profit is taking part in a wellness showcase Saturday where people will be talking about holistic approaches to mental health.

"I’m on a mission to help others through conversation," Lee said.

[County-by-County mental health resource guide]

July is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. It focuses on how diagnoses like depression and anxiety affect the black, Hispanic and Asian communities. Trauma therapist Jarris Bell said sometimes issues with things like housing and unemployment can trigger mental illness.

"It’s not just what’s in our environment, but what our systems are doing to minority communities," Bell said.

Lee wants people to know that there is help in the community.

"Now, I go through life with a different set of eyes,” Lee said. “I feel open, and I feel free."

Event Details:

National Minority Mental Health Month

Free Wellness Showcase

Saturday, July 27 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Friendship Missionary Baptist Church

3400 Beatties Ford Road