Mississippi Department of Mental Health

Garrett Lee Smith State

This project addresses the serious need to strengthen Mississippi’s response to post- Hurricane Katrina mental health needs for youth by implementing an awareness campaign for suicide prevention and intervention, training gatekeepers in effective practices for screening and practitioners in trauma-focused evidence based practices, and facilitating a local infrastructure that will promote access, input, and support.

It is estimated that over 100,000 children in the Gulf Coast region will develop post-traumatic stress disorder and experts in the field of child traumatic stress are concerned about the slow burn of depression that is becoming increasingly evident, especially among teens attempting to recover while displaced from their homes or living in compromised conditions. Priority has been placed on the six Costal counties most directly impacted by the storm and its long-lasting impact. This area remains most vulnerable to youth suicide due to the impacts on socio-economic status and breakdowns in local social and service structures.

Living in these conditions, over two years post-Katrina, has exacerbated the sense of loss and hopelessness for this population and is especially taxing on teens and young adults struggling to attain a sense of identity and relying on their communities to provide normalcy and much needed social supports. This proposal outlines the process for development of, and access to, appropriate youth suicide prevention and interventions. By expanding on the structure of existing local Making A Plan (MAP) Teams and including other key stakeholders in their respective communities throughout the state, we will ensure that information and resources are spread consistently and are inclusive of age, race, ethnicity, culture, language, sexual orientation, disability, literacy and gender diversity in the target population. Reflected, will be the intention of MS to address prevention of youth suicide in a strategic, concerted, and collaborative manner. We are moving forward in a sustained manner transforming how communities prepare for and respond not only to post-disaster mental health needs of our youth but also to the escalating critical concern regarding youth suicide throughout the country.