Why This Chicago Coffee Shop Decided To Sponsor Free Therapy For The Community

We are living in uncertain times. The COVID-19 pandemic has been incredibly tough and many of us are still reeling from the losses we have suffered. Christopher LeMark, the founder of a coffee shop in Chicago that focuses on mental health and well-being, knows exactly what it's like to be in the throes of despair. In fact, he opened his coffee shop in a bid to reach out to others in need. 

LeMark, a hip-hop artist, told TODAY that he was abused for several years and did not have a support system as a child. His parents were not a part of his life. In 2018, he found himself at a loss, tearing up at a Starbucks store in Chicago. He decided to seek help. "After some challenging sessions, my therapist sat up in his seat and he said, 'It wasn't your fault you were abused.' And now, for the first time, I heard it." LeMark said.

This was a turning point for LeMark and he, in turn, felt like he could help others in similar situations. That's how Coffee, Hip-Hop & Mental Health was born. 

Inside Coffee, Hip-Hop & Mental Health's meaningful initiative

Per TODAY, Christopher LeMark came up with the name for his coffee shop by thinking about the things that matter to him. He attaches a lot of importance to hip-hop because it helped him express his feelings during a difficult time. He said, "I always had a chance to write. It was my first form of therapy." Additionally, he wanted to remove the stigma attached to mental health. The hip-hop artist explained that most people in his community are told to deal with their issues on their own instead of seeking help. For him, it felt necessary to make mental health awareness a priority. 

Coffee, Hip-Hop & Mental Health is a step in that direction. It's a non-profit store where every cup of coffee bought is used to gather funds to help people gain access to free therapy. LeMark is grateful for the opportunity to help others. At his coffee shop, no one is invisible. He said, "People want to be seen, and we tell our staff 'Make sure you love on them,' and that's the issue. A lot of people are not seen. We give them the opportunity, for a single moment, to be heard and seen."

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.