Doctor uses social media to raise mental health awareness -- and Beyonce approves

Dr. Jess answers five common questions about mental health and treatment.

Doctor uses social media to raise mental health awareness -- and Beyonce approves
Courtesy Dr. Jessica Clemons
May 27, 2019, 4:01 AM

Search on Instagram for "Ask Dr. Jess" and you'll find Dr. Jessica Clemons, a New York City-based psychiatrist who has more than 55,000 followers.

Her social media has been one of her biggest tools to help reduce stigma associated with mental illness, specifically in the black community, -- and now even Beyonce approves.

Clemons has gained recognition for her online platform, where she creates conversation to help people better understand mental health.

She hosts a weekly "Live Q/A Session" session on Instagram every Saturday and Sunday where she invites people online to ask questions, both publicly and anonymously, about everything from anxiety, trauma, self-love and more.

Her platform for good caught the attention of "Queen Bey" in February 2019, when she praised Clemons as a woman "who exemplifies Black excellence" in her "We Good" series for Black History Month.

"To have my image there [on her website] was so beyond surprise and excitement," Clemons said.

Her work on social media also has been praised by peers, who invited her to present at the American Psychiatric Association about using "social media as a tool to educate and advocate."

"We're in a really interesting time where social media can build community," she said.

Mental health being 'taboo'

Clemons' goal to de-stigmatize mental health treatment was inspired by her upbringing.

"I grew up in the South, I'm also a part of the black community and, historically, we haven't really had a lot of conversations around mental illness for both of those reasons," Clemons told "GMA." "We really think a lot about church and how that can be an area where people can talk about their problems, and then also in the black community, [mental health is] also very taboo."

According to a 2014 survey by the United States Office of Minority Health, only 9.4% of non-Hispanic black adults received mental health treatment or counseling, compared to 18.8% of non-Hispanic white adults.

Clemons explained that one of the many reasons there's a stigma around mental health in the black community is that if someone can't deal with issues in church "then the thought is that you don't have enough faith or you're not giving it over to the church enough."

"It becomes an issue of what is most important," she said.

She shared that for these reasons, she didn't have a lot of conversations about mental illness growing up in her community, but in her household, everyone was "open about their feelings."

"I think that allowed me to feel very comfortable with the other aspects of mental health, which is being comfortable talking about emotions," Clemons shared.

Using social media to tell the story

Clemons received her medical degree from Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University, where she realized she wanted to become a psychiatrist with a focus on mental illness.

"I found myself using social media to tell the story and the journey, and people were asking me questions about anxiety and depression," she shared.

She has been completing her residency with training at a New York University-based program and her work mainly involves providing clinical care.

More people have come to know Dr. Jess, however, from her televised therapy session on VH1, "In Session Live With Dr. Jess," and her speaker series, "#BeWell."

For "#BeWell," Clemons invited artists such as A$AP Ferg and two-time Grammy nominee Rapsody to help normalize conversations about mental health and wellness.

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