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“Suicide in the African American Community: The Sad Reality”

Updated: Sep 1, 2022

By: Katrina R. Bell, LPC, LPCS Candidate


What is Suicide?

According to the CDC Website, “suicide is death caused by injuring oneself with the intent to die. A suicide attempt is when someone harms themselves with the intent to end their life, but they do not die as a result of their actions”.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, it affects all ages and is the second leading cause of death for people 10 to 34 years of age, the fourth leading cause among people 35 to 54 years of age, and the eighth leading cause among people 55 to 64 years of age.

Suicide rates vary by race/ethnicity, age, and other population characteristics. The highest rates are among non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native and non-Hispanic White populations. The rates are also high among Veterans and LGBTQIA+ Community.

What are risk factors for suicide?

Factors that can increase the risk for suicide include having a history of mental illness(i.e, depression, anxiety, etc), abuse(all types), bullying, health issues, previous suicide attempt, violent relationships, financial stress, work stress, lack of social/family support, barriers to health care and lack of access to community resources.

The Sad Reality?

The sad reality is that these rates only reflect the suicides and attempts that are reported. In my practice, I have found that in the African American community, suicide is a topic that is not talked about or addressed so we are definitely not getting an accurate account for the amount of suicides happening in the African American Community. However, we do know that it has increased since the 90’s.

How Can we Address this?

According to many research studies there are ways to decrease the risk factors that lead to suicide. A few of them include having more access to care and decreasing barriers to care and stricter gun laws. In my professional opinion, I would say the single most important way is to decrease the stigma related mental health issues in our community. In the book “Lay My Burdens Down” by Dr. Alvin Pouissant and Amy Alexander this is discussed in depth. Other things that help are providing education opportunities to African Americans to understand Mental Health more as well as providing access to care and removing barriers to care including healthcare coverage that included Mental Health benefits. This would mean that there would need to be providers in areas that in or near where African Americans live. It would also have to be affordable and have flexible hours for those who work. In short, it begins with education and it is important that we educate ourselves so we can begin to change the narrative as it relates to suicide in the African American community.

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