LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Billboards and bus stop signs are popping up across Louisville, advertising free counseling available this month for those facing daily discrimination, poverty and exposure to violence.

Louisville Metro's Office of Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods (OSHN) is trying something new, offering free therapy sessions through October.

The organization specifically hopes men of color will take advantage of the opportunity through its Trauma Resilient Communities (TRC) Program.

"I had hundreds of people call, and most of them were African American men talking about, you know, their friends are dying in these streets. They're feeling unsafe in their own skin, they're feeling overwhelmed," said Nannette Dix, TRC Program manager. 

Billboards and bus stop signs asking questions like "Feeling Hopeless?" and "Overwhelmed?" are now popping up across the city's west and south ends, encouraging people to seek counseling.

The TRC initiative is using $25,000 in American Rescue Plan money to fund the free sessions. 

According to the Jefferson County Coroner's Office, suicide deaths for people of color in Kentucky have been greater than the national average for the last four years, citing racism and discrimination, exposure to violence and lack of accessible treatment as contributing factors.

Recent regional statistics from the coroner's office between 2020-21 show the local suicide for Black males under the age of 25 make up 28% of all suicides in the county. Hispanic males of the same age group make up 8% and Indigenous males' make up 4%.

Additionally, Dix said cultural stigmas of hypermasculinity can deter Black men from seeking help, particularly older generations.

"Just to unpack that suitcase is very life-changing," Dix said. "Just to take off a couple of those baggage's you have on your shoulder is very life-changing and I would just say, you know, come in and talk. You don't have anything to lose."

TRC enlisted Martin and Muir Counseling to provide the sessions since it specializes in counseling for racial trauma. Dix said they are seeking more funding to continue the program on a long-term basis. 

Though the focus has been placed on men of color, anyone in need of counseling can participate. To set up an appointment, call (502) 901-0100.

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