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NYS Office of Mental Health launches partnership with Association of Black Psychologists to help heal from Buffalo tragedy and increased rates of trauma

The NYS Office of Mental Health is partnering with the Association of Black Psychologists (ABPsi), Inc. to provide specialized “healing circle” support groups for individuals and families traumatized by the racially-motivated mass shooting in Buffalo earlier this year and increased incidents of hate crimes in general.  The virtual support groups, known as “Sawubona” provide assistance and support to individuals and families dealing with elevated levels of grief, anxiety and trauma.  

OMH Commissioner Dr. Ann Sullivan said, “Sawubona healing circle support groups will be a vital resource to help heal the communities that have been devastated by racial violence. Many families in Buffalo are still understandably anxious, angry and emotionally distraught. OMH has been responding to this trauma with extensive public outreach and coordination of care resources. We are grateful to the Association of Black Psychologists and their help in implementing this innovative, culturally-grounded program to support the needs of people of color across the state.”

Donell L. Barnett, PhD, President of the Association of Black Psychologists, said, “We are excited about this opportunity to partner with OMH to provide needed services and support for Black communities in New York. This is uniquely important given the racial trauma and other challenges the country has taken notice of recently and historically. At a time of increased demand for services and a shortage of mental health providers, having culturally appropriate and culturally accountable services as a part of the array of mental health and wellness services is critically important. The Association of Black Psychologists is glad to partner with New York State in leading the way towards a national model.”


Sawubona Healing Circles is a national program of the Association of Black Psychologists. Sawubona is a Zulu word that means “I see you.” Sawubona Healing Circles are a culturally grounded rapid response intervention model designed to provide coping and wellness strategies in an affirming space for Black people experiencing race-related stress and trauma.

The Black-led healing circles, which are non-clinical, provide culturally relevant ways for people to express thoughts, feelings, and stories in a healing way. Culturally grounded in African-centered practices, the model helps address racial and other forms of trauma in communities of color. If you want to attend a “Sawubona” healing circle, please sign up here.

To grow this effort, OMH is looking for New York State residents interested in becoming trained Sawubona Healing Circle facilitators. This is a perfect opportunity for volunteers, retirees, students, advocates, and mental health service providers interested in supporting resilience in the Black community. If you are interested in this free training opportunity, go here and apply.



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