Story by Tori Broussard. Video by AB Barnett. Photos provided by Litehouse Wellness.
Dallas Doing Good has had the privilege of partnering with the Communities Foundation of Texas for North Texas Giving Day over the past few years, but this year, we are doing it Texas BIG. It is the 15th anniversary of the largest community giving event in the nation, so we have selected 15 organizations to highlight leading up to Giving Day on September 21. Early giving kicked off on September 1.
When Sherri Doucette considers the importance of mental health, she thinks of her late husband, Baba, and his struggle with his own mental health journey. As a love offering, Sherri created Litehouse Wellness, a nonprofit that helps bridge the gap by providing black men with accessibility to wellness spaces.
“Black men were largely excluded from the wellness conversation and traditional spaces in general,” Sherri says, “yet were facing the worst, mentally and physically, compared to other groups.”
Seven years ago, when Sherri started Litehouse Wellness, depression amongst black men often went unspoken. Even today, many black men do not share their struggles about depression and mental health. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “black men have less access to and poorer quality of mental health care.”
Through free virtual group therapy, preventative health education, yoga, mindfulness, social-emotional learning (SEL), and accessible experiences for radical rest, Sherri strives to improve the mental health of black men in her community.
“Our goal is to create safe, courageous, healthy communities by equipping a generation with the tools necessary to heal and recover quickly,” Sherri shares. “We understand that under-served communities, especially communities of color, are most affected by environmental impacts and resource deficits.”
A common factor among why black men do not seek help, besides mental healthcare not being affordable, is because of the lack of diversity among therapists.
The APA states, “When black men do seek help and would prefer a same-race provider, it can be difficult finding black psychologists since they still only make up about 4 percent of the doctoral-level of the psychology workforce.” However, that number is growing, and Sherri understands the significance of that fact. She even takes her efforts a step further into helping mental health among all people.
“If we are committed to creating a more sustainable and just world for all, we need to amplify the needs of people from the most vulnerable communities,” Sherri says humbly. “That being said, diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice are core values of our organization. We welcome all people and recognize the rights of individuals to live their lives with dignity, free of discrimination based on race, faith, abilities, gender, or sexual orientation.”
Sherri is not only committed to helping others, but herself as well. Sherri experienced her first yoga class 20 years ago. For the first time in a very long time, Sherri says her internal chatter was muted. Sherri wanted more of that, and after her first yoga class, she committed to attending yoga classes after work as if her life depended on it. In her opinion, her life did depend on it.
Sherri said the stress of her everyday life: motherhood, career, and community all proved to be too overwhelming often. Nevertheless, her dedication to participate in contemplative and restorative exercises such as yoga, meditation, and her weekly “Red X” day (a day that Sherri designates once a week on her calendar to only engage in activities and with people who give her joy– no work, no technology), showed to improve her mental and physical health.
“Goodbye panic attacks,” she says.
Today, Litehouse Wellness supports the mental health of underserved men, women, and children. Litehouse Wellness teaches resiliency-building skills for self-healing and mastery. Their classes are offered throughout the Dallas community through partnerships with different stakeholders. Through each slowed breath, shared thought, and softened body, Litehouse Wellness recognized that the wellness chasm can be narrowed.
“Though Litehouse Wellness will undoubtedly be a part of my legacy, in the not-too-distant future, I envision that our group therapy sessions, yoga classes, and workshops will be held in our own building that we can share with complementary community partners,” Sherri says. “Ultimately, this will support our ability to expand our youth mindfulness programming to include vocational training in meditation and Yoga.”
Currently, there are three ways to become involved with Litehouse Wellness. If you are a teacher who has a passion to work with youth ages second through eighth grade, email email@example.com. Anyone who wants to volunteer and is skilled in marketing and fundraising can also email firstname.lastname@example.org. To make a recurring donation, visit this website.
For Sherri, Litehouse Wellness is special. Even the name Litehouse came about in a unique way.
Sherri had the vision for Litehouse Wellness decades ago, but could not settle on a name. Following her husband’s death in 2015 from esophageal cancer, it became clear to her that folks without access to health and wellness support were like ships out to sea without a vital navigational guide: the lighthouse.
“That was it, we’d become a beacon for our community – a proverbial lighthouse. Coincidentally, my husband’s nickname growing up in Brooklyn, NY, was Lite. And, so it is. Litehouse Wellness.”
Sherri says that to her, Litehouse Wellness symbolizes freedom.
“Lite, like water, will make a way or find one,” Sherri says. “It can’t be contained. It must be free. Free to shine. Free to illuminate the disparity. Free to fill in the gaps.”