Local man brings suicide awareness with Akron’s refugee community

AmberSubba

Amber Subba, who works as a case worker at the
International Institute in Akron. (Photo: Chris Miller)

Story by Chris Miller, The Akronist

A case worker at the International Institute is tired of seeing the depression, substance abuse and suicidal thoughts that overwhelm some of his fellow Bhutanese in Akron. The suicide rate among refugees is nearly double what it is for U.S.-born residents, says Amber Subba, (pronounced Ahm-ber), who is co-hosting a “Stop Suicide” event Feb. 28, 1 p.m. at North High School. The event will include live music, and local mental health professionals will attend to spread the message that help is available for residents battling with depression.

The Bhutanese have a higher suicide rate than any other refugee group in the U.S., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, which adds that rates of depression are three times more than the national average.

“We see people ending their lives for no reason,” says Subba, one of the 4,000 Bhutanese-born Akron residents. “We thought we should do something through the medium of music. We want to provide the information through entertainment and open up dialogue.”

Local and national Bhutanese music artists will perform, and local mental health professionals will lead a discussion about this troubling social problem. At the event, the musicians plan to release a music video to open up dialogue among the Bhutanese community about mental health issues.

Depression and mental illness among refugees is a national issue, as language barriers, feelings of isolation and cultural barriers tend to amplify depressive thoughts, says Subba, who adds that roles in families may change when they move to the United States, as sometimes wives and children find employment before the father, which shifts the family dynamic of some households.

Akron Community Foundation highlighted this need last year, awarding a grant to Coleman Professional Services to hire a refugee liaison to reach out to the Bhutanese community and serve as a cultural bridge and translator to help address depression and other mental illness.

Subba hopes this event can at least open up the lines of discussion, and let residents know that help is available. And most, importantly, for residents to remember that these feelings are temporary, he says.

Musical acts will include the Druk Fusion Band, Menuka Memorial Foundation and Rhythm Screen Creation. The event is hosted by the International Institute of Akron.

Dr. Chhabi L. Timsina, a noted psychiatrist from Minnesota, Dr. Elina Shakya from Akron City Hospital, and Stepanie Goeden, Refugee Liaison/ Therapist at Coleman Behavioral Health, also will speak.

“Stop Suicide” takes place Feb. 28 at 1 p.m. in the North High School auditorium, 985 Gorge Blvd., in North Akron. The event is free and open to the public.

For more information, go to:  www.bcakron.com/index.html

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