New initiative launched to reduce suicides among Black Ohioans

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — According to the Ohio Department of Health, the rate of suicide deaths among Black Ohioans has increased quite a bit over the last decade.

That’s why Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services announced funding for a new statewide effort called the Black Youth and Young Adults Suicide Prevention Initiative. The goal is to reduce suicide for those between the ages of 10 to 24 in the Black community.

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The Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation is leading the initiative, and will be working with community partners across the state to increase access to mental health care for the Black community.

“We know cultural competency is key so working with those community partners to train say faith-based leaders on how to recognize suicide warning signs, risk factors, how do you have that conversation with somebody,” said Austin Lucas, the program director for the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation.

Dr. Josephine Ridley, a psychologist who specializes in suicide prevention, said risk factors for Black youth include family disagreements, divorce and exposure to violence.

“If you’ve got a young African American or Black male or female who has got a cell phone and they see people that look like them being killed then it affects them,” Ridley said.

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Ridley believes the best way to prevent suicide among Black youth and young adults is by giving them a sense of belonging and sharing where they can get help.

“If we can improve access to good mental health care I think we can move the needle on suicide,” Ridley said.

Mental health leaders in Franklin County agree. NAMI Franklin County is also receiving funding from the grant. The organization is partnering with ArkBuilders, a Columbus-area mental health nonprofit, for this initiative.

“I think the separation that is happening in our community is adding to the sense of ‘do I belong, what’s my future look like, why should I even try?’ and we know if we have nurturing communities that suicide will go down,” George Hicks, ArkBuilders executive director, said.

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Leaders at ArkBuilders and NAMI Franklin County said they plan to talk to young Black people in central Ohio and see what they need to feel supported by local organizations.

Those involved in the Black Youth and Young Adults Suicide Prevention Initiative said they are confident that this initiative will work, and make a difference across the state.

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