Black adults are 20 percent more likely than white adults to report serious psychological distress, and yet many are apprehensive about seeking professional help for mental health issues.

But there’s a new artistic effort to change this reality.

D.C. independent filmmaker Penny Hollis is working on two films which center the experiences of Black individuals dealing with untreated mental illness. In The Birthday Gift, a homeless man burdened by the weight of his past and an un-compassionate society wrestles with depression while searching for the perfect gift for his wife. In Maxine, a middle-aged teacher coping with the aftermath of a brutal attack is thrust into a state of paranoia that puts her students and job in jeopardy.

As a person who has struggled with depression and who has a number of family members with mental illnesses, Penny creates films that approach the subject with uncanny compassion and honesty. She’s a friend and neighbor who I’ve seen over the years, and when she heard I was a writer, her face lit up: “I have to show you my short film about abortion,” she exclaimed, referring to a past project.

Right now, Penny is fundraising to finish The Birthday Gift and Maxine, so please join me in helping her reach the goal by *this Sunday.* It’s important for me to support Black artists, and Penny also has a majority-Black production team. She’s ready to get these films out there!

In the meantime, read my Q&A with Penny below, in which I speak to her about these deeply personal films: