COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Over the course of 30 years, the rate of Black children attempting suicide has risen more than 70 percent.
“For years, I was left to deal with emotions that I didn’t know how to deal with,” said Summer Godbolt, a mental health advocate who faced her own struggles.
Emotions of betrayal, confusion, and pain when realizing her uncle sexually molested her when she was only 5.
“My mom wanted to send me to counseling,” Godbolt said. “She really wanted me to get some help, but my father was extremely against it.”
She said it was a reaction to the stigma of mental health, and a common one for families of color.
“He felt like psychologists or therapists were going to blame them,” Godbolt said. “He just felt like this was going to be something we would deal with at home.”
That decision ultimately sent Godbolt into a downward spiral.
“By the seventh grade, I had attempted suicide once by trying to overdose on pills,” she said.
The trauma continued for Godbolt. She was raped by a second cousin at age 13, and later on, her daughter’s father tried to kill her.
“My depression was terrible at that point,” Godbolt said. “Right after I turned 20, I tried to commit suicide again. I got rushed to Mt. Carmel East Hospital.”
A cry for help, but this time, someone was going to listen.
“She just sat there crying and asked me why was I doing this, and I didn’t have an answer,” Godbolt said. “I just didn’t think I should be here anymore.”
But Godbolt is here, and the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation wants people to know they should be, too.
The Life is Better With You Here initiative encourages families, specifically families of color, to find help for mental health.
“Mental health is such a stigma in general, but especially in the Black community,” said Keiko Talley with the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation. “It’s really not discussed. It’s almost shut away.”
Some of the biggest mistakes include telling children not to think like that, or choosing to fix the problem within the family home.
“Letting parents know it’s important not to talk, but to just kind of sit there and listen to your kids,” Talley said. “Let them know that they have this safe environment and that they are loved and that they do matter. Create this safe space for them to come to you and discuss these things.”
That was something Godbolt never had, until she went to prison.
“I felt like I was the most freest person when I was incarcerated because I didn’t have to be around my family anymore and I didn’t have to be around people who didn’t understand me,” she said. “I was finally able to get help and it was OK for me to get help. I didn’t have anyone judging me about getting the help.”
Goldbolt said thousands of women and girls struggle in silence.
“To have that community of women come around you when you are that young, and make you feel worthy,” she said. “Life changing.”
Godbolt said her family has been able to heal, but not without the help of therapy.
For resources to help with mental health and suicide issues, click here.