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NY offering virtual support groups to help Black residents heal

The purpose of healing circle support groups is to help people following the Jefferson Avenue mass shooting and other forms of racism.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — To help the community heal following the Jefferson Avenue mass shooting at Tops, the New York State's Office of Mental Health is teaming up with the Association of Black Psychologists to offer healing circle support groups.

This will help meet the mental health needs of people of color in Western New York and beyond.

Specialized virtual healing circle support groups, known as Sawubona, are being offered to help people deal with elevated grief, anxiety, and trauma.  

"It uses Afro-centric healing techniques, so that's what makes it especially unique is that it's run by individuals who are Black, and it uses special techniques that are ancestral, and that are unique to the specific experience that we have," said Matthew Canuteson, the chief diversity officer at the Office of Mental Health.

Canuteson wants to get the word out, so people impacted by the shooting on May 14, or any racial violence or racist behavior, know help and support are out there. The healing circles are places where people can feel comfortable sharing their experiences.

"Issues related to suffering micro-aggressions, and issues related to just being a person of color, living in an environment and a world that sometimes has some additional barriers and some additional complications to it," Canuteson said.

They are also looking for volunteers because Canuteson says a big component is mutual support.

"We all know that volunteering is also good for our mental health because it gives us purpose and it gives us that feeling, that understanding that we're part of this solution," Canuteson said.

"Over the last couple of years, we've really realized that mental health is just as important as physical health, and we really need to make sure that there's not something wrong with you, it's just that we all need to make sure that we're taking care of that part of our overall health."

To accommodate everyone's schedules, the state offers this program at different hours of the day.

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