By: Corinne Dorsey, Campus Reporter
The Howard University chapter of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) conducted a suicide prevention training: “Question, Persuade, and Refer (QPR)”, a session hosted by mental health specialist, Fonda Bryant on Saturday, September 19th.
The QPR Gatekeeper Training for Suicide Prevention was an educational program designed to teach “gatekeepers” the warning signs of a suicide crisis and how to respond. “QPR is not intended for us to do counseling or treatment. But what QPR is intended to do is offer hope of action,” Bryant emphasized.
“During the time of COVID-19 and civil unrest, it is imperative that we take a closer look at mental health, especially in the Black community. As an organization who mission is to lead, advocate for, and empower women of African Descent, their families, and communities, NCNW takes great pride in pushing suicide prevention,” said senior Kaylah Clark, a former President of the NCNW Howard Section.
In 1995, Bryant was diagnosed with depression and struggled with suicidal ideations. Through her struggles, she became passionate about suicide prevention and mental health awareness, even more so after joining the National Alliance on Mental Illness in 2014.
Since joining, she has been at the forefront of a movement to confront depression and suicide and alleviate the stigma associated with mental health issues. Bryant has now been a mental health advocate for 21 years and hosts many events surrounding suicide prevention.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Bryant has hosted free weekly interactive video calls which have impacted over 700 people across 23 states and five countries.
Bryant talked to The Hilltop about why HBCU’s specifically must have consistent dialogue surrounding mental health issues and suicide prevention. “I think it’s so important because the younger we educate people of color, the more we can break down the laws of stigma. And the more lives that we can save, because every four and a half hours, someone dies in our culture to suicide,” Bryant said.
Bryant also emphasized the statistics unveiled by The Black Political Caucus and Congressman Bonnie Watson Coleman. From 2001 to 2017, for black males between the ages of 13 to 19, suicide was up 60%. For black females of the same ages during the same time period, suicide was up 182%. “We got to do better. We got to, we got to normalize mental health conversation,” Bryant urged.
“Workshops like this are especially important for black communities and communities of color. There’s always been a stigma around mental health as a weakness, because we are such strong people. But that is not the case. This training was great because it equipped me with knowledge that I can share with others and resources for those that may be struggling with their mental health,” junior Ruby Avery, who currently serves as the co-chaplain for NCNW HU,said.
Based on the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., but it is ranked second among college-aged students.
“We are facing a national mental health crisis, and college campuses are reflecting what’s going on in society at large,” said Dr. Victor Schwartz, chief medical officer of the Jed Foundation in an ABC News Interview.
The event hosted by Bryant offered insight on critical indicators of suicide, preventative measures related to suicide, and how to pick up on social cues associated with suicide effectively. “Suicide prevention is everybody’s business. And anyone can help prevent the tragedy of suicide,” Bryant highlighted.
“It is important to begin asking “What happened to you?”, rather than “What is wrong with you?”. It’s important to look through the eyes of mental health”, Bryant told The Hilltop.
NCNW’s mission is to lead, advocate for, and empower African descent women, their families, and communities. “It is an honor to raise suicide awareness and possibly save the life of someone else,” Clark told the Hilltop. This event effectively offered tools and resources for addressing mental health issues and suicide prevention to the Howard Community especially through such a vital time for support.