Statewide ‘Life is better with you here’ campaign focuses on mental health of black youth

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WDTN) — According to the CDC, the rate of suicide among people ages 10 to 24 has increased nearly 60 percent between 2007 and 2018, and concerns skyrocketed through the pandemic. An aspect that’s often overlooked is the rising rate is its impact on black youth.

A statewide campaign called, “Life is better with you here,” is a partnership between The Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation and Canvas Consulting of Columbus. It seeks ways to improve mental health outcomes in minority groups.

Chris Suel is a LIBWYH campaign ambassador. He knows first hand what’s it’s like to overcome those challenges. “I was 26-years-old and I remember calling my mom telling her I wanted to kill myself,” he said. “I was just in a place where I couldn’t get ahead so at the time. I felt like it was easier to take myself out of the equation, and take that burden off of my family.

withyouhere.org

After coming to terms with how things got so bad, he became involved in the campaign, helping other African Americans struggling with suicidal thoughts and mental health illnesses.

2 NEWS spoke with Annikah Cundiff and Marie Elaine, who were also part of the campaign with their mentor, Caroline Bennett, the founder at Caroline Inspires LLC.

“We just needed someone to listen to us. We needed someone to not tell us that it’s going to be okay when in all reality it might not be okay at that moment. We just needed someone to tell us the truth. Somebody not to judge us,” Cundiff said.

“I need somebody to listen. I need somebody to be there. I need to know that I’m not alone in this,” said Marie Elaine.

As survivors themselves, Cundiff and Marie Elaine are now advocates speaking out to help other young people battling mental health issues. While experts and advocates haven’t connected the dots between suicide and the pandemic yet, they have said the pandemic has added stress factors, while taking away stress relievers.

“Kids had to be in the house for almost the past year. So you add on the other issues their parents may be facing, like the economic challenges, the lack of food, lack of resources,” said Suel.

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