It’s impossible to know how many lives Nadine Kaslow has saved over the course of her career. A licensed psychologist who serves as both a tenured professor at Emory University and chief psychologist at Grady Hospital, she founded the Nia Project in 1993. The nonprofit started as a CDC-funded research project examining the association between domestic violence and suicide attempts in Black women. A few of the 400 study participants approached Kaslow at the end to ask what support she was planning to provide. Soon after, the Nia Project was born with one weekly support group. It’s since grown to more than 20 weekly groups, as well as no-cost individual, couples, and family therapy, and a 24/7 hotline Kaslow runs herself.
“I’m always available to help them or to get them to safety,” says Kaslow, who recently talked a caller down from the top of a parking deck and paid for a hotel online so she would have a safe place to spend the night. Providing those seemingly small services—like occasionally paying a utility bill or putting gas in a car—can mean the difference between someone looking to suicide as a way out or being able to cope with the challenges they’re facing.
“Nia” is a Kwanzaa principle that means “purpose,” a goal that’s closely linked to Kaslow’s mission. “Our goal is to give the women a sense of purpose, [so they’ll know that] their life is meaningful,” she says. “I’ve also come to realize how much purpose [this work] gives me.” She also has a personal connection, having lost a friend’s mother and two female patients early in her career to suicide. “That led me to make a commitment to prevent it,” says the compassionate doctor, who has served nearly 2,500 women through her nonprofit.