According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately 30% of African American adults with mental illness are treated yearly compared to the overall U.S. average of 43%. But there is reason to believe that the numbers are even lower than that. What isn’t debatable is the need for greater awareness and support of mental health wellness in the African American community.
Prompted by his own personal experiences with mental illness, Calvin G. Seino, better known as DJ Tryfe, decided to turn his 30th birthday celebration into ‘the VIRIBUS ball’ to raise money and awareness. “I used to struggle with mental illness. So, I always felt if I made it to 30, that I would focus on reaching back as I move forward,” says the sought-after DJ who has rocked parties for everyone from Venus and Serena Williams to Megan Thee Stallion.
Textures: Sequins, Velvet, Feathers, and Fur is the theme of the MET Gala-inspired experience taking place at Highland Theater, a venue located on Pennsylvania Avenue in the Hillcrest community of Washington, D.C., Sunday, January 19. Hosted by Candiace Dillard from The Real Housewives of Potomac, for whom he has DJ-ed on the show, tickets are $50, $100 and $1000. The goal is to make a sizeable donation to the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, founded by fellow Howard University alum, actress Taraji P. Henson who started it to help those like her late father who struggled with mental illness.
“She already has a foundation with boots on the ground, so it makes a lot more sense to write a check to somebody who’s already working instead of starting a foundation as well,” Tryfe explains. “When I started going through my issues, I was scared to go get help or to get on meds or even tell my parents. My parents are preachers, so they wanted to just pray for you,” he shares.
The popular DJ, known for his fun affairs throughout the DMV region, found the help he needed while working as a resident advisor at his alma mater. When his supervisor discovered that he battled depression and struggled with suicidal thoughts, he didn’t fire him. Instead, he made a deal with him that he could keep his job only if he went to counseling. Today, he credits that for saving his life and giving him the respect, he currently has for seeking professional help.
“If someone has cancer, yes, you pray for them, but you don’t discourage them from going to a doctor or getting chemo or having surgery. And we must look at mental illness the same way,” he says.
Choosing Viribus, a Latin word meaning strength, as the name of the ball, DJ Tryfe hopes to deliver that to others. “I really want to fight against the stigma against mental illness in the black community and bring awareness to the fact that even some of the people you may look up to or people who are really successful they struggle as well and we’re getting help so you should too.”