Suicides among Black teenagers continue to rise at startling rates.
Consider these sobering facts: For the first time, the suicide rate of Black children in between the ages of 5 and 11 doubled between 1993 and 2013 while the rate among white children had declined, according to a 2015 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Suicides by hanging nearly tripled among Black boys and suicide has become the third leading cause of death among Black people between the ages of 15 and 24.
Why are more Black teens committing suicide? Depression and mental illness are the most common factors although, historically, these issues have not been addressed with doctors or mental health professionals.
Last year, a 14-year-old black girl in Florida broadcast her own suicide on social media. Naika Venant fashioned a noose out of a scarf, hanged herself from the bathroom door and livestreamed her suicide on Facebook Live.
Jomo K. Johnson, pastor and co-founder of Black Lives Matter Savannah, began a hunger strike June 6 to call attention to the rising suicide rate. Johnson started his hunger strike on the one year anniversary of the death of Kalief Browder, the teen who spent three years in solitary confinement in Rikers Island, New York without being charged.
“We want to give more attention to mental health—especially those coming out of prison and [the] LGBTQ community. I believed this was a method to talk about death on a regular basis,” Johnson told NBC News.
Johnson told NBC News that he will only drink water for a minimum of 30 days and post uplifting messages on Facebook every night.
Johnson’s efforts are needed: In April, a young couple from Ohio committed suicide only a few days apart. Mercedes Smith was found unresponsive in her dorm room at Lindsey Wilson College on Thursday, April 20. She was reportedly suffering from depression. A few days later on April 22, her boyfriend, Markeice Brown, (pictured) also killed himself after leaving a devastating video and Facebook post.
Smith, 18, was a communications freshmen and was also on the track and field team at her school. “We were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Mercedes,” said Lindsey Wilson President William T. Luckey Jr. “Our thoughts and prayers are with her family, friends and teammates and the entire LWC community during this incredibly difficult time.”
“Life for Black youth can be hard sometimes,” Randall Barnes, a teen author, entrepreneur and internet radio personality based in Macon, GA, wrote in an essay.
“You don’t have to be an adult to come face to face with the reality of how hard life can be,” Barnes wrote. “You were born knowing it. However, what’s learned in time is how to handle and cope with these realities. We’re told to find solace in our faith and beliefs but that’s often times tested. There are times when you just want a way out. You want a way to escape from your burdens.”
According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, although anyone can develop a mental health problem, African-Americans sometimes experience more severe forms of mental health conditions due to festering needs.
African-Americans are also more likely to experience certain factors that increase the risk for developing a mental health condition:
Homelessness. People experiencing homelessness are at a greater risk of developing a mental health condition. African-Americans make up 40% of the homeless population.
Exposure to violence increases the risk of developing a mental health condition such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. African-American children are more likely to be exposed to violence than other children.
Reduce the violence. Reduce the suicides.
What do you think?
If you or a loved one is experiencing thoughts of suicide or someone you know is talking or posting on social media about it, please get help.
The National Suicide Prevention Center hotline number is staffed 24-7, 7 days a week. Their number is 1-800-273-8255. You can click HERE for more information on the variety of services they offer. They can help.
All photos via social media
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