When Terence O. Hayes Sr. was 11, he lost his mother, Ethel, to suicide. She was 29.
Decades later, Hayes, now in his 60s and a pastor in Dayton, Ohio, is honoring his mother’s legacy with a scholarship designated expressly for students with mental health issues. Because mental health was not well understood or openly discussed in the Black community when he was younger, he suppressed his own feelings, he said, which caused mental health challenges for him later as an adult.
“I wanted to do something so my mom’s name was not forgotten,” said Hayes, who holds a doctorate in education. “I did not want another kid to go through what I went through. When I say that, I mean not getting help and not seeking counseling … There’s such a stigma about counseling and seeking help, and I want to remove that stigma.”
The Ethel Hayes Destigmatization of Mental Health Scholarship is open to all students who have either personally faced mental health challenges or watched a loved one struggle with them. To apply for the scholarship, students must write a short essay about how their mental health journey has impacted their beliefs, relationships and aspirations. The application closes in June, and Hayes will announce the winners on July 13—his mother’s birthday.
Last year Hayes awarded the scholarship to two students, who each received about $3,500, said Dror Liebenthal, co-founder and CEO of Bold.org, a website that hosts scholarships from a variety of donors, including Hayes. For this year’s scholarship, Hayes is fundraising with a goal of raising $10,000—enough for four or five scholarships. So far, he’s raised more than $6,500.
“I think it’s a great example of a donor who really cares about this issue in a deep way,” Liebenthal said. “We love Dr. Hayes; he is one of our most prominent donors.”
One of last year’s winners, Abena Bonsu, wrote about learning of the vast disparities in health care—including mental health care—at a science enrichment program for high school students at Harvard Medical School.
“She was speaking about how she served the church and how community is so important when people are going through struggles, so that they don’t feel like they’re isolated or alone,” Hayes said. “For her being so young, it touched …….