Increasing support systems for young people struggling with mental health issues will require a concerted effort by parents, educators and community organizations, presenters said at the African American Behavioral Health Conference. of 2023. The Ohio State University and the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OhioMHAS) hosted the conference at the Fawcett Center last week in conjunction with the April celebration of the Minority Health Month.

The conference brought together educators, health professionals and community members to discuss interdisciplinary approaches to health care and reducing the social stigma surrounding mental health, the Kirwan Institute said. for the study of race and ethnicity General Manager Ange-Marie Hancock.

“It’s the people closest to the problem who are the best predictors and sources of solutions,” she said. “Researchers, those on campus and through our affiliated faculties as well as the people doing research through our institute, help bring these solutions together…and help policy makers evolve the solutions.”

Making mental health resources more widely available and effective is one of Governor Mike DeWine’s top priorities, OhioMHAS Director Lori Criss said.

“We are working to create a system where everyone has a fair and equal chance to be as healthy as possible and to end the stigma that prevents people from getting help,” she said. . “Stigma is different for every community. I grew up in Appalachia and we have a lot of stigma around mental health, but it’s very different in the African American community. It is very important to know this and be mindful of it and not just expect the same solution to work everywhere.

Issues discussed at the conference included workforce development in the behavioral health industry and strategies to increase support systems for youth with mental health issues.

“Our communities are our best resources for what we like to call ‘tough issues,'” said Wendy Smooth, Ohio State’s senior vice provost for inclusive excellence. “We know that when we do this work, and do it collectively in partnership with communities across the state, we are fulfilling our land-grant mission and our commitment as the state’s flagship institution.”

Hancock led a panel on youth suicide prevention with Beverly Vandiver, director of the Quantitative Methodology Center at Ohio State, and Nicole King Cotton, assistant professor at Morehouse School of Medicine.

Schools can serve as support networks for young people by providing activities that build self-esteem and provide opportunities for positive social interactions, Vandiver said.

“We have to think about who is involved in sports, who is involved in extracurricular activities, and those are so vital for socialization,” she said. “Also, what is the social support from family and community? These are really important.

Parents and community members play a crucial role in addressing the negative interactions young people encounter on social media, Cotton said.

“I am a parent of two young children and I am right on target. For me, it’s about education,” she said. “How do we change the narrative on social media, in interpersonal conversations? How can we give them a different narrative of what it means to be part of the culture? »

For more information about Minority Health Month and to access a list of upcoming events compiled by the Ohio Commission on Minority Health, visit

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