WREN makes mental struggle part of a story

ShelbyBy Shelby Wingate, Whitefield Academy (Mableton, Georgia)

With increasing awareness about issues related to mental well-being, a South Carolina-based network is offering health services aimed at better improving the emotional stances of women.

WREN (Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network) was created to help women better their economic situations as well as advocate for their social rights. However, over the last 20 years, there has been a significant increase in suicidal deaths. And even though men are three times more likely to die by suicide, women are three times more likely to attempt suicide.

On June 13, 2017, WREN launched a photovoice project called Seen & Heard to help augment the diverse barriers women face in their lives. The most common ones were the desire for connection or a lack of support, which is a common cause in the recent suicide rise.

“There were a lot of people talking about community, the people they rely on, and that they need their support,” photographer and participant, Steffi Brink says. “For the women, getting together and having face-to-face connections with people is really important. It makes them feel like their voice means something.”

In the project, each woman experienced a struggle that greatly affected them, and in many cases, the lack of support led to this emotional struggle and potentially suicidal thoughts. According to Director of Communications and Learning Eme Crawford, some women desire connection because “a lot of people put pressure on women to be perfect. We tell women not to be honest about their feelings or their vulnerability.”

For Crawford, and many of the WREN staff, women are held to this standard that sometimes can’t be met. “Boys are taught to take risks. Why can’t girls do that?” said Crawford.

As a community, WREN and its Seen & Heard project allowed for women to convey their feelings without fear of judgment. They “take risks” that Crawford and many of the WREN staff applaud. They appreciate the women taking the risk to speak their mind and to communicate with women they don’t know.

These risks have taught Seen & Heard participant, Andrena King, that, “it’s OK to be vulnerable. It’s OK to share intimate things about yourself with others because what you then realize is that you’re not that different.”

King said that each woman has a diverse story, but most importantly, she noticed that every woman struggles both physically and emotionally, which, “connects us in some way.”

[Follow the WREN group’s journey during CJI on their official Instagram account.]

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