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Elevating Voices for Long-Lasting Change, A Town Hall Series

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is dedicated to meeting the mental health and suicide prevention needs among underrepresented communities.

As outlined in the organization’s three-year strategic plan, AFSP is prioritizing diverse communities, believing that every family, youth, adult and community should have the resources and knowledge to discuss mental health concerns, connect with support, and have access to effective mental health care and suicide prevention resources. We know through research that mental health and suicide intersect with health, educational and economic disparities among minority populations.

Through an ongoing town hall series, Elevating Voices for Long-Lasting Change, AFSP is convening leading experts in mental health and suicide prevention from diverse communities to help elevate voices, improve public understanding of their range of experiences, and support their unique needs. AFSP is finding the most effective ways to support and engage communities in education, advocacy and public understanding to close the gap and ensure we are meeting the needs of diverse backgrounds.

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Culture and Mental Health in South Asian Communities

AFSP’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Christine Yu Moutier, will moderate a discussion among three leading clinical experts, each with a unique perspective on mental health in South Asian communities. The conversation will consider how South Asian people face specific challenges when it comes to mental health and suicide prevention – such as cultural stigma surrounding mental health, and the myth of the "model minority" – and will also explore strategies for overcoming some of those challenges by encouraging open and honest dialogue.

Learn about the panelists:

Dimple Patel earned her Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology degree from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology at National Louis University in Chicago, Illinois. Dr. Patel serves on the Board of Directors for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's Illinois Chapter, and is co-chair of the diversity, equity, and inclusion committee. Through her advocacy work, Dr. Patel sheds light on the shame and stigma surrounding mental health issues across the board and within the South Asian community.

Zheala Qayyum is Training Director for the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship Program, and also Medical Director of the Emergency Psychiatry Services at Boston Children’s Hospital. She holds faculty appointments at Yale School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School. Dr. Qayyum trained in child and adolescent psychiatry and consultation liaison psychiatry, and subsequently completed a Master’s in Medical Education at Harvard Medical School. 

Deepak Penesetti is a child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist, and an alum of Mount Sinai Hospital’s Triple Board Program in New York City. Dr. Penesetti serves as Chair for Health Equity at the American Psychiatric Association (APA), and also sits on the New York City board of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. He heads the selection committee for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's Minority Fellowship Program, and was appointed to the APA's Council on Communications, as well as its Scientific Program Committee.

Preventing Suicide in Native American Communities

Those in Native and Indigenous Peoples communities face specific challenges when it comes to mental health and suicide prevention. American Indians and Alaska Natives accounted for the highest suicide rate reported for 2021 (the most recent year reported on by the CDC), with a slight increase for Native American and Alaskan Native males from the previous year.

AFSP’s Senior Vice President of Research, Dr. Jill Harkavy-Friedman, will moderate a discussion with three leading experts on mental health in Native American communities:

  • Shelby Rowe is the Executive Director of the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) at the OU Health Science Center and a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation. A public health professional, crisis intervention expert, and suicide attempt survivor, Ms. Rowe has been a leader in the suicide prevention movement at the local, state and national level since 2007. In 2016, she was named the Chickasaw Nation Dynamic Woman of the Year.
  • Andrea Wiglesworth, M.A, is a member of the Seneca-Cayuga Nation (Deer Clan) and a fourth year graduate student in the University of Minnesota’s Clinical Science and Psychopathology Research Ph.D. program. She is an AFSP research grantee ("A Mixed-method Study of Fluctuations in Suicide Risk and Resilience in Native American Young Adults”) interested in the relationship between forms of stress (e.g. minority stress in Native American populations) and suicidal thoughts and behaviors in childhood and adolescence.
  • Rochelle Williams, M.S., is the Tribal Program Manager for Volunteers of America Western Washington (VOAWW), which is the home of the Native and Strong Lifeline (Tribal 988), the first tribal 988 call center, and the Washington Indian Behavioral Health Hub in Everett, Washington. Rochelle is an enrolled member of the Ehattesaht First Nation, which is located on the West side of Northern Vancouver Island, Canada.

The discussion will examine the unique considerations involved in suicide prevention in Native American and Alaskan Native communities, with a focus on what the research tells us; best approaches and necessary adaptations in suicide prevention work for this population; and the use of 988 and crisis response in Native American communities.

Mental Health in Asian American and Pacific Islander Families

AFSP’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Christine Yu Moutier, moderates a discussion with three leading experts on mental health in AAPI communities. The conversation will consider:

  • the role culture plays in how Asian American/ Pacific Islander families interact with aspects of mental health;
  • how different generations may have different understandings of mental health and comfort levels in talking about it;
  • strategies for opening productive dialogues around difficult feelings and experiences;
  • how parents can support children and teens in managing their mental health, and encourage help-seeking; and
  • the role communities can play in encouraging positive and productive support systems

Paneliests include:

Dr. Howard Liu, Chair, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Department of Psychiatry; social media innovator and leader in Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) inclusion in healthcare leadership

Dr. Jenny Wang, author of Permission to Come Home: Reclaiming Mental Health as Asian Americans, clinical psychologist and expert on the intersections of Asian American identity, mental health, and racial trauma

Dr. Becky Wong, Clinical and Scientific Director, Otsuka Pharmaceutical Development and Commercialization, Inc. and founder of the Otsuka Employee Resource Group, InspirASIAN 

Supporting the Mental Health of Trans Communities

Transgender Day of Visibility is an international event dedicated to recognizing the resilience and accomplishments of the transgender community. To highlight the importance of supporting trans mental health, our Town Hall conversation is moderated by Morgan Cohn (they/them), AFSP’s area director of Orange County and Inland Empire/Desert Cities in California.

Morgan is joined by:

  • Russell Toomey, Ph.D. (he/they), professor and program chair, Family Studies & Human Development at University of Arizona, who is an AFSP-supported researcher who has studied SOGI populations
  • Phii Regis, MPH (they/them), associate director, All Children - All Families of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation
  • Jari Jones (she/her), actress, model, and activist.

Topics include:

  • Unique challenges commonly experienced by the trans community
  • What scientific research reveals about trans mental health and suicide prevention
  • Impending legislation affecting trans rights
  • What all parents should know to provide loving support for children and teens
  • How we can all support trans folks

Coming Together to Prevent Suicide in Black Communities

AFSP’s chief medical officer, Dr. Christine Yu Moutier, moderates a discussion with three of the leading experts on suicide prevention in Black communities:

  • Victor Armstrong, MSW, Deputy Secretary for Health Equity and Chief Health Equity Officer, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services
  • Alfiee (Dr. Alfiee) Breland-Noble, Ph.D., founder and board president, the AAKOMA Project
  • Tami Benton, M.D., FAACAP, FAAP, Psychiatrist-in-Chief, Executive Director and Chair, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Topics discussed include:

  • Causes and possible interventions to address the current suicide rate among Black youth
  • Factors contributing to suicidal behavior and feelings in minoritized communities
  • Misconceptions regarding mental health in Black communities
  • How suicide loss affects Black families and communities
  • The importance of elevating Black researchers in suicide prevention work
  • The impact of intergenerational trauma and racism, and strategies for hope and healing

Supporting AAPI Communities: Mental Health Experiences, Discrimination and Reducing Stigma

One-hour discussion that focuses on how the national network of AFSP chapters and beyond can support the AAPI community particularly in the face experiences of discrimination and stigma surrounding mental health experiences, with audience Q&A on Facebook Live (@afspnational).

Moderator: Marian Liu, Washington Post

Panelists include:

  • Dr. Christine Yu Moutier, AFSP CMO
  • Dr. Rona Hu, Stanford Psychiatrist
  • Dr. Chris Hahm, AWARE Research Boston University

Families, Culture and GenZ/Millennial Perspectives on Mental Health and Suicide Loss

AFSP’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Christine Yu Moutier leads a moderated one-hour discussion with the Thomas family (Chris, Martha and Solomon) and the Cornelius family (Tony, Christina and Raymond), focused on how young adults and families are addressing mental health needs and experiences of suicide loss. Topics include youth culture, family dynamics, and how we can all come together for greater connection and culture change.

Strengthening Mental Health Support and Connection within the Black Community

This town hall explores peer/professional, community-led initiatives that are giving way to hope and meaningful conversations about mental health and suicide prevention.

Dr. Doreen Marshall, AFSP’s Vice President of Mission Engagement, facilitates a one-hour discussion with leaders from Black-led organizations who are focused on inspiring mental health connections and meaningful peer-to-peer conversations about mental health and suicide prevention.

Guest panelists for the conversation and audience Q&A include:

  • Dr. Donna Barnes, Founder and CEO of DHB Wellness & Associates, LLC; Co-founder and President of the National Organization for People of Color against Suicide (NOPCAS)
  • Lorenzo P. Lewis, CEO and Founder of The Confess Project
  • Dr. Chinwé Williams, Founder of Meaningful Solutions Counseling & Consulting

Suicide Prevention Research in Diverse Communities

Dr. Jill Harkavy-Friedman hosts a panel of expert suicide prevention researchers who  share their work, translate research findings into tips for preventing suicide in families and communities, and share gaps and opportunities to learn more through research to prevent suicide in Communities of Color.

Preventing Suicide in BIPOC Communities: Ways Forward

In the third Town Hall in the series, “Preventing Suicide in BIPOC Communities: Ways Forward,”  Dr. Christine Moutier will lead a moderated one-hour discussion focused on policy opportunities and initiatives, with audience Q&A on Facebook Live on September 17, 2020 from 3-4 p.m. ET.

Guest panelists include:

  • Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, Chair, Congressional Black Caucus Task Force on Black Youth Suicide
  • Michael Lindsey, Ph.D., MSW, MPH, Executive Director, NYU’s McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research and Constance & Martin Silver Professor of Poverty Studies; Chair, Working Group of Congressional Black Caucus Task Force on Black Youth Suicide
  • Nikki Pitre, Coeur d’Alene Tribe, Executive Director at the Center for Native American Youth at the Aspen Institute

An AFSP Virtual Town Hall Series Addressing MH and SP in BIPOC Communities

The second Town Hall in the series looks at “Supporting Mental Health in Communities of Color: Ways Forward” Dr. Christine Moutier will lead a moderated one-hour discussion with audience Q&A on Facebook Live (@afspnational).

Guest panelists include:

  • Alfiee (Dr. Alfiee) Breland-Noble, Ph.D., Psychologist, author, founder of mental health nonprofit the AAKOMA Project and host of video podcast “Couched in Color"
  • Michael Lindsey, Ph.D., MSW, MPH, Executive Director, McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research, Constance and Martin Silver Professor of Poverty Studies, Chair, Working Group of Congressional Black Caucus Task Force on Black Youth Suicide
  • Fred Sandoval, MPA, Executive Director, National Latino Behavioral Health Association

Mental Health in the Black Community

The first Town Hall in the series takes a closer look at “Mental Health in the Black Community” with a focus on the role of family alongside mental health programs and statewide services that are making mental health and suicide prevention an imperative for the Black community. Dr. Christine Moutier will lead a moderated one-hour discussion with audience Q&A on Facebook Live (@afspnational).

Guest panelists include:

  • Victor Armstrong, MSW, Director of the NC Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse Services; Board of Directors, North Carolina Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
  • Tandra Rutledge, M.A., Director of Business Development, Riveredge Hospital; Board of Directors, Illinois Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
  • Arielle Sheftall, Ph.D., Principal Investigator, Center for Suicide Prevention and Research, Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics, The Ohio State University College of Medicine