Did you know that the suicide rate of Black children under the age of thirteen is twice as high as their white counter parts? And the rates of Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are higher in the Black community than in any other community?
However, despite the high rates of mental illness and suicide in the Black community, treatment is rare and difficult to locate. According to Aaren Snyder, author of Black Mental Health Matters, the social support for individuals with mental disorders in the Black community is low, and most times individuals are forced to go without treatment or resort to alternative methods of self-medication, which often leads to substance abuse.
Snyder states that one cause of the lack of treatment within the Black community is that many individuals have their first experience with mental health professionals and counselors through the court system, which leads to a lack of trust. Many people are afraid to seek help from a counselor in fear of the information they share being reported to the court or causing them to be admitted to a mental hospital. It is because of this fear, and the stigma that surrounds mental illness, that many individuals go without help which can increase suicide rates. Parents also often don’t know when or how to talk to their children about suicide and mental illness, which can contribute to the high rate of suicide amongst children.
But one thing that is so important to remember is that it is never too early to talk to others about suicide, mental illness, emotions, or their experiences.
Opening up about these topics can save a life and increase the likelihood of reaching out for professional help before a mental health crisis occurs. To start, it is important to learn some of the risk factors for suicide and signs to look out for in yourself and your loved ones. Understanding these signs can help you to establish open communication with your loved ones and hopefully prevent a tragedy, while learning how to locate the signs in yourself so that you may reach out for help as well.
- Family history of suicide
- Family history of child mistreatment
- History of suicide attempts
- Mental illnesses (particularly depression)
- Substance abuse history
- Access to lethal means (example: guns, pills, etc.)
- Extreme loss (example: financial, loved ones, etc.)
- Aggressive/impulsive tendencies
- Talking about death more than normal
- Feeling hopeless
- Having no reason to live
- No one caring or feeling like a burden to others
- Feeling trapped
- Unbearable emotional or physical pain
- Increased use of alcohol and/or drugs
- Withdrawing from activities
- Socially isolated from friends and family
- Giving away prized possessions
- Increased aggression ad irritation
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Extreme sadness
- Excessive worrying
- Loss of interest in hobbies
- Humiliation or shame
If you notice any of these signs in yourself or your loved ones, there is help available. The following are organizations that support mental health in the black community both in person and virtually to ensure that you are able to access care that is the most convenient for you. Many of these organizations will work with you to provide you with the most appropriate help based on your situation. All of these organizations specifically work with black individuals and specialize in men, women, children, queer people of color, and more.
The first step is reaching out – you are not alone.
Mental Health Resources for People of Color:
I hope that the information I have provided will help to increase your awareness of mental health, mental illness, and suicide, while providing you with the tools you need to seek help or talk to your loved ones in a more open manner. Take care of yourself, you are worth it!
Snyder, A., LMFT. (2020). Black Mental Health Matters: The Ultimate Guide for Mental Health Awareness in the Black Community. Toledo, OH: Majestic Publishing.