Nadine Kaslow, PhD, Emory School of Medicine professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, founded in the early 1990s the Grady Nia Project for abused and suicidal African-American women. Named for the Kwanzaa term that means “purpose,” Nia serves countless numbers of abused women who come through Grady Memorial Hospital’s emergency department each year.
The program is funded by grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Mental Health, and Kaslow serves as principal investigator. Kaslow also serves as chief psychologist at Grady Memorial Hospital and holds a joint appointment in the Departments of Psychology, Pediatrics and Emergency Medicine, and the Rollins School of Public Health.
Kaslow says the women in the Nia program, who either feel suicidal or have attempted suicide because of stress associated with violence, are victims of intimate partner violence and are usually black, minimally employed, with children and addicted to drugs and alcohol. Many are homeless.
Nia is staffed 24/7. Some staffers may make a trip to the emergency department in the middle of the night when a woman comes in with injuries or a story consistent with intimate partner violence or when she has attempted suicide. If a woman enrolls in the program, she will join approximately 50 to 75 other women who are going through it at any given time.
Nia is different from other programs for abused women in that it never terminates a woman from the program. Some programs kick out women if they go back to their abusers or have a drug or alcohol problem.
On a more positive note, the women who participate in Nia have made some progress over time, says Kaslow. They feel more positive about themselves and better able to cope with stress. They feel less depressed, anxious and suicidal. Some remain in the program for years, and others stop by when they need extra support and guidance.
Kaslow notes, “The women in the Nia Project have all had very sad and traumatic lives. . . . Their stories are poignant and touching. But what inspires me about them is their strength and courage. It is their resilience that we must help them to capitalize on.”