BY TAMARA PATRICK
According to the American Association of Suicidology, 2,144 African-Americans committed suicide in the United States in 2010. Suicide was the third-leading cause of death among African-American youth ages 10- to 19 after homicide and accidents.
Bethune-Cookman University Counseling Services along with the Project S.T.E.P.S. (Survival Through Education Prevention and Services) Program hosted a seminar on Monday that took a critical look at those statistics. The seminar was titled “Many Voices, One Vision.’’
The goal of the seminar was to build awareness of suicide among underrepresented student populations. Students at B-CU and Daytona State College as well as representatives from the community participated in the seminar.
Joi Niles, a B-CU counselor and presenter at the seminar, said about 100 people attended the one-day event.
Understanding risk factors
Niles, along with Dr. Earl Mowatt, were presenters for a session titled “Understanding Suicide Ideation Among African-American Students.’’ The program session was an interactive approach to understanding risk factors associated with college-aged African-Americans.
“Based on the feedback of students and how it relates to African-Americans and suicide, I believe it had a major impact on those who came to the session,” Niles told the Daytona Times.
Nikes also spoke on some of the common misconceptions in the Black community as it relates to mental illness, stating, “A lot of times African-American people believe going to church solves mental illness, negating that further action and treatment needs to take place to help a person at times.’’
Before the conference, Niles noted, “Suicide does not discriminate and affects everyone.’’
Gays, veterans represented
The seminar included sessions on services for veterans, addressing the needs of LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer and questioning) students, genetic factors and family mental health history, the stigma of seeking mental health treatment among African-Americans, and overcoming life’s barriers and challenges.
A session also dealt with campus and local resources for student veterans. Later, a panel of women discussed the road to recovery after a diagnosis of bipolar, schizophrenia, and schizoaffective disorder.
The closing speaker was Nakaisha Tolbert-Banks, who is the director of Education and Public Affairs Mental Health America of Greater Indianapolis. Tolbert-Banks’ topic dealt with dispelling myths that suicide does not exist in the Black community.
During her presentation, she talked about understanding the impact suicide has on the African-American community and discussed the stigma and warning signs of mental illness and suicide.
Training and certification
QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) training and certification was offered at the seminar. QPR is set up to help participants learn how to help those who may seem suicidal and in need of help. Participants learned how to ask questions if suicide is being considered. There also were a large number of participants in QPR training.
Niles called the seminar a success and said B-CU’s counseling center wants to do it again. “There has been talk of making this an annual event,” she said.
Project S.T.E.P.S. is a campus-wide suicide prevention program designed to help diminish or eliminate risk factors that predispose students to suicidal ideation and suicidal attempts.
Tamara Patrick is a B-CU student majoring in mass communications. She is interning this semester with the Daytona Times.