September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

September 28, 2021

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month
Guest Authored by CAYEN Board Secretary Zofia Trexler

Suicide is a public health crisis, one that causes unspeakable amounts of pain and suffering in our communities. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States and the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-34.[1] Now more than ever, we need comprehensive and sustained action to prevent suicide.

In addition to these statistics, the California Youth Empowerment Network’s (CAYEN) 2020 State of the Community Report[2] further supports the dire need for more mental health resources in schools and communities to prevent suicide. Youth are disproportionately impacted by mental health challenges[3] and suicide, are frequently under-resourced[4],and can lack access to mental health care due to a lack of available behavioral health workers in the workforce[5] (i.e. school counselors). Furthermore, there is a severe shortage of services for youth impacted by the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.


Expanding mental health supports and services is an important part of suicide prevention, but we also recognize that this is one facet of a complex and broad array of issues that need to be addressed as well. We also need to work to mitigate social factors that contribute to poor mental health outcomes such as poverty, housing and employment insecurity, violence, discrimination, and other forms of societal inequity[6]. This is why we need to focus on providing culturally competent, community-based, and free mental health supports and services so that people are able to receive appropriate care regardless of their race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status.

Intersectionality of Mental Health Advocacy - Zofia Trexler, member of the California Youth Empowerment Network, speaks at the 2021 TAY Days Opportunities for Change Panel)


Now more than ever, it is important to uplift community-based resources and organizations that work towards these goals. Organizations like Asian Mental Health Project and the Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective focus on developing and creating access to culturally competent mental health resources, while organizations like the Urban Peace institute and Californians for Justice focus on empowering youth to foster community health, social justice, and violence reduction in order to create healthier and happier communities.


In conjunction with these types of community-based, culturally competent resources, there are a multitude of state-wide, youth-led organizations who are devoted to advocating for mental health policy and legislation, like the California Youth Empowerment Network (CAYEN), a program of Mental Health America of California (MHAC). CAYEN’s TAY-led Board advocates for the mental health needs and interests of TAY in different local and statewide decision making spaces. CAYEN also hosts advocacy trainings to empower local groups of TAY to reduce mental health stigma and propose specific solutions to support TAY mental health in their communities.


Title: To Be Hmong: Advocacy Through Artful Expression - Pachia Vang, a member of the Hmong Cultural Center, speaks about mental health through spoken word at their organization’s virtual Town Hall supported by CAYEN)[3] [4] 


Communities should not have to shoulder the pain of losing so many loved ones to suicide. This September, as we make our way through Suicide prevention Month, it is important to realize that suicide prevention and mental health should be apriority all year long. We hope that the examples and organizations leading suicide prevention and mental health advocacy across California serve as a reminder that we all have the ability to help create a world in which everyone’s mental health is actively supported.

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