April 18, 2024

2 Hamilton agencies aim to improve the mental health of the city’s youth

A partnership between a pair of Hamilton organizations aims to help the mental health of the city’s African-American youth.

Modern Psychology and Wellness and the Booker T. Washington Community Center are partnering on the initiative designed to increase access of mental health professionals to a historically underserved population.

“We thought it would be great if we could bring some of our providers to them who can help people get care and hopefully get good results,” said Dr. Quinton Moss, founder of Modern Psychology and Wellness.

BTW is a community center that is part of the Greater Miami Valley YMCA and the residents of the surrounding neighborhood are predominantly African-American. Moss said the African-American community historically does not seek mental health help. He said whether it’s a cultural challenge or the stigma associated with seeking these services, it’s important for people of all cultures to seek mental health services.

Some of the common issues for youth are mood disorders, depression, and anxiety symptoms, “but African-American youth seem to be an increasingly vulnerable population,” he said. “African-American youth are one of the fastest growing groups in terms of suicide, especially here in the state of Ohio. It’s vital to have mental health services, to provide treatment, but also to educate the public.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates are among African Americans between the ages of 10 and 24.increased significantly” from 2018 to 2021 by 36.6%. In Ohio, suicide rates among the Black population were the highest in 2021 – 160 deaths – accounting for 9% of Ohio’s suicide deaths.

BTW Center Director Ebony Brock said this initiative is “extremely important and vital,” and is personal to the Hamilton high school graduate.

“My degree is in psychology, so I’ve always wanted to bring it to this particular community, and during my interview, one of the questions I was asked was how do we tackle the mental health crisis we see among our young people.”

She said she knew there would be a need for such an initiative, and when she met Dr. Moss, “it seemed like the perfect fit” to provide mental health access to the center’s children.

“We believe in a holistic approach: spirit, mind, body. And so I’m really looking forward to seeing the progress and how the children in our families heal and get better because of this,” said Brock who said her work at the center is “like a ministry.”

“I often refer to the work I do here as soul work,” she said. “There are some days when you’re driving home and you’re in tears because you wonder if you’re doing enough, and then there are days when you’re driving home and you feel, ‘OK, I know I made a difference in someone’s life today.’ The work of transformation is not easy, but it is an honor to do this work.”

The services will be offered to those as young as 7 years old, and Moss said if there are adults who show they need mental health services, they will try to address those needs as well, even though the program is designed for children.

The start date is planned for August 7, which will be linked to a book bag event, designed to bring the largest number of children and parents to the center, exposing them to the resource. The goal is to start with at least 20 kids involved, and Moss said they think it’s achievable.

“But we hope the community sees this as an easy way to access care,” Moss said of the initiative that will begin as a half-day program. “BTW has a long history of providing leadership in the community, providing for a variety of community needs, and we just want to walk alongside them as they do what we do best, which is provide mental health services.”

Moss said that depending on the success of this program, it could be expanded to other organizations that support the city’s youth.

Brock said she sees children struggling in some situations and hopes that children who are struggling will grow to a point where they are not just surviving but thriving.

“That will be it for me,” she said. “When I see a kid that I’ve known for a long time be in survival mode, and I see that kid take steps toward prosperity, that’s the feeling of, ‘OK, we’re doing what we’re supposed to do. When I see a kid being able to be a kid, we’re doing what we have to do.”

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