Local organization brings suicide prevention to its community

Everyone has a mission in life but for Lorenzo Lewis his mission turned out to be bigger than just him.  In 2009, Lewis started the Confess Project, A non-profit organization that brings men and boys alike from many diverse backgrounds together in a safe environment that have one important thing in common — a need to express themselves emotionally without the stereotype of “big boys don’t cry” hanging over them.

“I lost my parents at an early age, going through those issues and living a life of crime,” Lewis said. “When I was 17 I was charged as a minor in possession of a firearm on school property. It didn’t make it any better that the gun was stolen and previously used in another crime. I spent some time in juvenile detention and eventually was given six months probation when I lucked up and got a lawyer,” Lewis said.

“Just trying to overcome that trauma and not having an adequate counseling on how to actually deal with my emotions. Especially with me being a masculine male.  I had a lot of family support, even some of my friends. I believe my family wasn’t educated enough to know the true extent of help that I really needed,” Lewis said.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the suicide rate for men is three and a half times greater than women. A 2012 article in Forbes linked mental health problems like depression and anxiety.

“By working in the psychiatric field for going on 10 years and working with families on a case by case basis with males and females, but partially with males, once they leave treatment they may attend the counseling by force, but with The Confess Project we want males to come and just express themselves freely,” Lewis said.

Lewis doesn’t want anyone to see this as a non-profit. He sees the Confess Project as a social enterprise where he has a curriculum inside the non-profit where he does workshops at certain events and visits schools to talk to kids who may be unaware that there is help for them out there.  The curriculum intels mostly understanding what mental illness is, substance abuse, and how all this impacts the African American community. There is also group exercise where they help each other with icebreakers to open up more.

Lewis has also started a scholarship fund that he intends to give out to college sophomores and juniors who will apply for it in the fall and the winner will receive it in the upcoming semester.

“The scholarship started at Arkansas Baptist College where I got my B.A. in human services in 2014 and my master’s of arts in public administration from Webster University in 2016. They gave me my foundation to want to continue my higher education.  We’re working on our second year now and plan on moving this to more schools statewide.  We target those who are in the sociology and social work fields, but we are still in the experiment phase where we don’t know who all will be receptive to it. Whether it males or female based. Nothing is off the table,” Lewis said.

Since the beginning, the Confess Project has helped over 100 people whether it’s from their workshops, programming or outreach initiatives. Right now, their working on a series of Confess Sessions where men and women can have dialogue about issues that they would normally not speak about with friends and family.

If you or anyone you know is suffering from mental illness or having a challenging time expressing themselves that may need guidance or a safe haven to let it all out, you can contact The Confess Project by visiting their website at lj-empowerment.com, emailing them at info@theconfessproject.com or visiting their Facebook page.

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