ACCESS for Economic and Social Services was one of the many honorees to be awarded a Suicide Prevention Grant from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. ACCESS, along with eight other organizations in Michigan, secured funding to develop sustainable, evidence-based programs aimed at reducing the rates of suicidal thoughts and attempts among different communities.
Other recipients of the funding include: Black Family Development, Inc. , Family and Child Charities, Corktown Health Center, Population Health Institute, Kalamazoo Integrated Services, MidMichigan Health Foundation, Southwest Counseling Solutions, Upper Great Lakes Family Health Center. Grants from BCBSM and its various partners totaled $ 650,000.
“We at the Foundation and our partners are excited about these grants, and are proud to establish suicide prevention support for Michigan’s underprivileged population,” said Audrey Harvey, executive director of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation in Michigan. “It is very sad to believe that more than 7,000 Michigan residents died from suicide between 2014 and 2018. All organizations were encouraged to apply based on the variety of work they did in their communities.”
Statistics from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services show that suicide is the second leading cause of death among people ages 10 to 24 in Michigan. Suicides have increased steadily across all demographics in both Michigan and nationwide since 2007.
Health officials have been particularly alarmed by the spike in suicides in the past year due to the isolation and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mona Makki, Director of ACCESS for Health and Community Research, accepted the grant on behalf of the Center, and elaborated on the suicide prevention programs that the grant will be directed towards.
“I would like to thank BCBSM and all partners for this amazing project that aims to help our youth face the many challenges they have faced during the pandemic,” she said. With this funding, ACCESS was able to launch the “Stop the Stigma” initiative, which implemented an increased screening of suicide risk factors in our health facilities. These efforts are very important to us, because in just the last few months we have seen a 25 percent increase in suicidal thoughts and five suicide attempts among our youth. This support cannot come at a more dangerous time, and I know it will save lives. ”
Makki also spoke about the stigma that exists in the Arab American community when it comes to mental health, and how ACCESS works to erase it.
“Given the mental illness in the Arab American community in Dearborn, we have a lot of denial, cultural and religious factors that lead to stigma around getting help, especially suicide,” she said. “When people come to the Arab Center, we make them aware of our mental health services. Our Children and Teens program is present at our medical center to help reduce some of the stigma and better educate them about mental illness. It has been a problem for decades now but during this pandemic we are trying very hard to work with families so that they can better monitor their children and look for risk factors. ”