theGrio’s 100: Terrie M. Williams, advocating for the voiceless

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Terrie M. Williams:
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Who is Terrie M. Williams?

Terrie M. Williams, 58, is founder of The Terrie Williams Agency, a public relations and communications firm representing some of the biggest names in entertainment, sports, business and politics.

Prior to her public relations career, she earned a master’s degree in social work from Columbia University and worked as a licensed clinical social worker at New York Hospital.

Pulling from those experiences and some of her own, the New York native has now gained notoriety as a national advocate for mental health awareness in the African-American community — having appeared on CNN, NPR and PBS.

Why is she on theGrio’s 100?

Williams first brought light to the issue of depression in the African-American community in 2005 when she shared her own personal story in Essence Magazine. Her candid story of crippling depression brought in over 10,000 responses, sparking her desire to further explore the topic . Williams’ fourth book, Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting, was a culmination of those efforts.

“The conversation about mental illness and depression in the black community was a taboo topic,” she recalls.

Through her foundation, the Stay Strong Foundation, Williams launched a national mental health advocacy campaign, “Healing Starts With Us.” Both the campaign and Black Pain garnered a huge amount of support and endorsements, including some from celebrities such as Danny Glover, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, Mary J. Blige and Patti LaBelle.

The campaign has since teamed up with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on the website Stories that Heal, complete with videos and resources surrounding mental illness among African-Americans.

What’s next for Williams?

She wants to switch gears slightly and use her advocacy skills to shed light on Alzheimer’s dementia and its impact on both those with the disease and the loved ones who feel powerless.

Williams will also continue her work with mental health, promoting emotional and mental healing.

“When someone approaches me and says that the book not only transformed, but saved their life — I know that I’m serving God,” she says.

Follow Terrie M. Williams on twitter at @TerrieWilliams.