A Look at Suicide in our Communities

In the latest report from the Centers for Disease Control on suicides in the United States, Blacks are listed as having the lowest rates out of all populations. However, one of the major risk factors that http://www.male-viagra.com/ need more attention for our young Black males is “no hope for the future.”  When we focus on that risk factor – we may not see completed suicides in the traditional manner…we will see life threatening behavior. Behavior that puts one in harm’s way almost on a daily basis, e.g., engaging in violence that could cause one to be killed, smoking harmful cigarettes with chemicals in them that can cause brain disorders, or driving recklessly. Anytime one does  not care about life anymore, life no longer has any meaning and an attitude of unresponsiveness sets in. Our young men just don’t care anymore. The National Vital Statistics report suicide is the 10th leading cause of death while homicide is the 16th.  But when you look at the Black neighborhoods there is an alarming difference.

Within many US Cities with majority African- American populations (>50%), homicide rates are considerably higher than suicide rates. Washington, DC has a homicide rate 29.1 per100,000, while the suicide rate is at 6.1; Gary, IN has 48.3 homicide and 11.2 per 100,000 suicides; Baltimore, MD had a suicide rate of 8.9 per100,000 and 43.3 per 100,000 homicide; and similarly, Detroit’s rate of suicide is at 8.9 per100,000 but is currently with 47.3 murders per  100,000. Whereas these statistics may be interpreted as African-Americans being more likely to engage in homicidal behavior than suicidal, we must be cautious to consider the social and psychological conditions in which these deaths take place. Due to the cultural stigma regarding suicidal behavior and mental illnesses within Black communities, one may engage in risky, criminal, or even homicidal behavior with an ultimate goal of bringing harm to themselves.

Yes, we suicide – but not in a way where the coroner is going to list it as a suicide on the death certificate. This makes it difficult to draw attention to our population in terms of assistance, representation, inclusion, etc – when it comes to suicide prevention and intervention. This may be what happened 20 years ago – when the rate of suicide had increased for Blacks over 100% in comparison to whites according to the Centers for Disease Control back in 1998. Did it increase because no one was paying any attention to the black populations?  Are we going to have a recurrence in the next decade of an increase of suicide in Black communities because no one is paying any attention to it?  I once had a conversation with a Congresswoman on the Hill arguing that suicide prevention in our communities is a necessity and that I need her support.  She responded with – “Look, this is one of the only deaths where Blacks are the lowest, and that is a good thing.  If I am to support anything – it will be for HIV/AIDS, stokes, heat attacks, diabetes…deaths on which Blacks are nearly the highest. And I softly said, “Yes, but we kill ourselves in other ways.”  And she said – “That’s not what I am getting.”

Suicide prevention is no different from crisis intervention.  If the word needs to be dispensed of – fine…I will use another word.  Crisis intervention needs to be a part of every community based organization in our communities.  It needs to be stepped up in the schools, churches, and any other institution that claims to be of service to the community.  We need training on how to recognize the signs when someone is in crisis and how to respond. We need to establish a curriculum on coping skills in our institutions.  Establishing strong coping skills is critical.

Let’s not be fooled by the statistics and pay close attention to what is going on around you.  When you compare the rates of suicide among Blacks with the whole nation – it looks as though once again, suicide is a “white thing.” And that is far from the truth.

Donna Holland Barnes, PhD

National Organization for People of Color against Suicide