National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 202-784-4073
As the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline told The Guardian, “Suicide is among the leading causes of death for black Americans.” Reports say it’s a “disturbing trend” in communities of color that are more vulnerable to the self-harm that does end in death.
According to a New York Times report, federal data shows that 1 in 6 African Americans aged 18 to 24 took their own lives in 2014, and each year a black man dies from suicide at a higher rate than any other ethnicity. A tally for 2015 was not available.
We wanted to know more about how the suicide risk of black youth in America has increased. In December, we asked African Americans for their insights on what’s fueling the problem.
One-in-five of us who responded was from Virginia. Rebecca, a 23-year-old black woman living in the Washington, D.C., area, has two adopted brothers (16 and 13) who are African American.
While her 21-year-old brother recently got into a trouble with the law, something her sister didn’t know about at the time, Rebecca told us a sad story.
Her older brother, whom she said had been taken away from his birth family when he was two weeks old, grew up in foster care. He was currently living at an LGBT shelter, and because of his age, they couldn’t legally adopt him.
“It should be law for all children to be adopted until they’re 18,” Rebecca said.
Seeing her brother struggle, she called for an end to racial discrimination in adoption. “The amount of discrimination that happens to other people is ridiculous, and society should learn that,” she said.
And as for herself, Rebecca said that she would encourage young people to leave abusive relationships. “There is an idea that guys just find another girl, and they just get rid of their girlfriend and become with another girl. But it can happen to anyone, regardless of gender.”
Another woman who wanted to remain anonymous shared a similar perspective.
“What is so sad is that not all black men are involved in high-risk lifestyles. I have experienced racism in schools, rape of my cousins and also sexual and physical abuse from my mother,” she said. “There is a lot of bad relationships in the African American community, not only for black women. It is a sad state of affairs.”
A survey by LifeSpan and the Prevention Institute in 2016, found that 43% of people thought that black men are at a higher risk of suicide than white men, and 39% of people thought that African American women have a higher risk of suicide than white women.
When it comes to preventing suicide among African American youth, Deborah Rozman, the director of the Suicide Prevention Program at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, says more effective intervention is key.
“Research shows that community awareness is essential for improving and sustaining interventions, as well as for decreasing societal inequalities,” she told us in an email. “Black youth often have less access to resources and health care. Racial and ethnic minorities are also less likely to access earlier intervention, unlike White youth.”
Rozman said that help seeking should always begin early, and parents should never simply hope their children never come back from it.
For information on getting information and support about mental health issues, click here.
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