I have always despised the stereotypes created by the black community, “black people don’t have mental health problems, black people don’t go to therapy, or black people don’t kill themselves.” Of course we do! We were kidnapped, ripped away from everything we knew, beaten down physically and mentally, became property, “freed”, lynched, segregated, discriminated against, given “equal rights” but not really, and today our black boys, girls, men, and women are being murdered unjustly everyday it seems like. So, yeah mental health issues are ABSOLUTELY prevalent in the black community—and our history of oppression is all of the evidence you need. Don’t take my word for it if you are skeptical. Let’s take a look at the numbers shall we…
In youth ages 10 to 19 years old, suicide is the second leading cause of death, and in 2017, over 3,000 youth died by suicide in this age group. Over the past decade, increases in the suicide death rate for Black youth have seen the rate rising from 2.55 per 100,000 in 2007 to 4.82 per 100,000 in 2017. Black youth under 13 years old are twice as likely to die by suicide and when comparing by sex, Black males, 5 to 11 years, are more likely to die by suicide compared to their White peers. Finally, the suicide death rate among Black youth has been found to be increasing faster than any other racial/ethnic group. In Black high-school aged youth, study’s indicated that suicide attempts rose by 73% between 1991-2017 for Black adolescents (boys and girls), while injury by attempt rose by 122% for Black adolescent boys during that time period. This would suggest that Black males are engaging in more lethal means when attempting suicide. Although Black youth have historically not been considered at high risk for suicide or suicidal behaviors, current trends suggest the contrary (Watson Coleman, 2017).
Culturally (particularly in the black community) todays adults were raised with the practice of being seen not heard during childhood. How has that mindset and family dynamic nurtured todays adults? The belief that kids should speak only when spoken to is outdated and unhelpful. If you want to know the TRUTH, ask a child. There is a HUGE difference between children being involved in adult conversation and giving children permission to only speak when spoken to. This household “practice” will silence your child when they NEED you. They will bottle up their emotions and internalize the HARD that comes their way which is where their mental health suffers.
“Instead of raising children who turn out okay despite their childhood, let’s raise children who turn out extraordinary because of their childhood.”-L.R. Knost
Let’s eradicate the statistic and evolve the stereotype that the black community places upon itself. Yeah. We might suffer from depression, anxiety, and trauma, but we get the help that we need to eliminate the mental health struggles we face. We show our children that it is okay to have self-compassion by asking for help. Let’s end mental illness before it starts. Let’s break the cycle. Together we can eliminate mental illness in children which will eventually end mental illness in adults because those children will become the adults. Those children are our FUTURE. Let’s create solutions. Let’s be accountable. Let’s fix our mistakes. Let’s be proactive. Let’s be examples for our children.
If 2020 has taught us anything, it has taught us to take NOTHING for granted.
As 2021 quickly approaches, what kind of parent will you choose to be? What kinds of solutions will you bring when it counts? How will you show up for your child? Will you commit to spending CONSISTENT QUALITY time with them? Be honest. Be vulnerable. Be humble. Be compassionate…with yourself and your child.
“Respond with an open heart instead of reacting with a closed mind.”
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Coleman, Bonnie Watson. Ring The Alarm: The Crisis of Black Youth Suicide in America, 2017, watsoncoleman.house.gov/uploadedfiles/full_taskforce_report.pdf.