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Mona Scott-Young, tressa Azarel Smallwood

Source: Megamind Media/Monami / Megamind Media/Monami

Mona Scott-Young is known for telling the stories of those trying to balance taking their music career to new heights while keeping their love life thriving on the Love & Hip Hop franchise. Now she is shining the spotlight on issues that hit home for Black women. Scott-Young has teamed up with Tressa Azarel Smallwood of MegaMind Media to create five short films that focus on mental health, domestic violence and breast cancer for BET Her’s “Her Stories” initiative. First up are two short films featured on BET Her Presents: The Couch, which focuses on mental health.

The film Almost Enough, which is Scott-Young’s directorial debut, follows Patience Williams, played by Yandy Smith, a woman living in New York City who is struggling with the woes of depression, anxiety and the COVID-19 pandemic. The second film, Through Her Eyes, which was directed by Vivica A. Fox follows Jasmine Brooks, a college student majoring in psychology that becomes overly invested in her case study, a homeless woman who is diagnosed with bipolar disorder. 

For Scott-Young, being behind the camera wasn’t only about adding director to her resume. She shared that during the midst of the pandemic, she noticed that she was experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety that she had never felt before. While directing Almost Enough, she realized that her own mental health had taken a toll during the pandemic. She shared that she hopes Almost Enough will encourage others to acknowledge and take care of their own mental health the same way she did.

“Personally, it really hit home for me because I realized during the course of the pandemic that my inability to get out of bed and all of the deep rooted anxieties and fears that I was feeling was its own kind of anxiety and depression,” she said. “For me, [directing] Almost Enough was cathartic in itself and an enlightening moment for me because if I had not been so submerged in understanding so I could properly do justice in directing the piece, I probably wouldn’t have recognized what was going on with me.”

Scott-Young and Smallwood felt even more compelled to focus on mental health for The Couch series because Black folks weren’t only dealing with stress related to the pandemic, but also an onslaught of police brutality in the past year. The media was flooded with disturbing images and accounts of the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks and Ma’Khia Bryant that left a collective angst amongst the Black community. Witnessing such troubling crimes against us also negatively affects our mental health. 

“The images we have been seeing day in and day out in the media platforms is an assault on your humanity in a way that has a negative impact and a stressful impact on your psyche, on your emotion,” Scott-Young said. “So even people who might have been completely fine before all of this, probably had cracks that were widened and amplified during this time of complete and total consistent assault. We were assaulted emotionally.”

mona scott young, yandy smith, tressa smallwood

Source: Megamind / MegaMind

With Almost Enough and Through Her Eyes, Smallwood and Scott-Young want to destigmatize mental health and normalize asking for help, something that isn’t common in communities of color.  

“[The superwoman syndrome] has been ingrained in us and it’s  how we’ve been conditioned,” Scott-Young added. “We are the pillars. We can be strong and take it on but the price of being strong is saying I cannot deal with whatever it is I’m going through at this moment and I need support. That in itself is the strongest act of love that you can give to yourself.”

Almost Enough and Through Her Eyes will air on BET Her on July 10, 2021 at 10:00 p.m.

After The Couch, three more films will be aired under The Waiting Room series, which features two films that focus on breast cancer awareness, and The Hotline series will supply a short film about domestic violence. The films are directed by actresses that were summoned to hop in the director’s chair. Directed by Ta’Rhonda Jones (Empire), It Takes Two follows a wealthy socialite, Dayna Stevens, whose unexpected illness removes her from the tennis courts to chemotherapy. Yvette Nicole Brown (Community) helms The Party which focuses on Summer Jackson, a successful magazine executive who is blindsided by the news that her cancer has returned after being cancer-free for five years. Her Lyfeline, which will be directed by Caralene Robinson (Disordher), follows London, a popular singer in a high-profile, abusive relationship with her producer and boyfriend, King Sire. 

When it came to choosing actresses and the directors, Smallwood said they chose them based on their own experience with the film’s message.

“Who is it that we really feel have some impact and really care about the topic?,” Smallwood said. “Like with the breast cancer initiative, we picked actresses that have actually gone through chemo so they are able to tell an incredible story.”

The Waiting Room and The Hotline will air on BET Her in October.

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