We all have our problems. Whether it is abandonment issues, poor self-image, a job we hate or family trouble, life can seem like an endless downpour of sadness and disappointment. While everyone feels down and out at times, the feeling of depression, along with worthlessness and hopelessness, can have a disastrous affect on anyone's life.
According to the National Organization for People of Color against Suicide (NOPCAS), suicide is the third leading cause of death among Black males between the ages of 15-24, after homicides and accidents. While Caucasians are still more likely to commit suicide, the suicide rates for African-Americans have increased in recent years.
An article by Kevin Chappell in the March issue of Ebony magazine found that in 2002, the suicide rate for Blacks tripled in the last 25 years. He also explained that 84 percent were black males. In the last 20 years, rates for Black youth ages 10-19 increased from 2.1 to 4.5 per 100,000 and for 15-19-year-olds the suicide rate increased 128 percent compared to 19 percent for Whites.
Dr. Donna Holland Barnes, a suicidologist at Howard University, trains counselors who deal with suicidal patients and says that counselors have more male patients than female patients. "Men tend to internalize their stress," explained Dr. Barnes. "They don't tend to seek help as often as females do. When men internalize their problems and do not seek help, it can, and usually does, lead to acts of violence."
There are several reasons why people commit suicide. Dr. David Pryor, a writer for Blackwomenshealth.com, explains that suicide can be the result of a person's struggle with depression and certain pressures in today's society. Some examples include death of a close friend or relative, broken relationships, feelings of inferiority and discrimination, and/or exposure to violence in the household.
Dr. Sandra Cox, a psychologist based in California, says family issues play a huge role in teens and suicide. "The main problem I see are teenagers who don't have any family support," Cox said. "Often times the father is not present in the house and sometimes neither is the mother." Researchers at the Depression and Bipolar Alliance explain that family support is crucial in anyone's life. Having no family support can cause feelings of alienation, abandonment issues, worthlessness, feeling unloved and unwanted and anger. All of which can lead to depression.
Unfortunately, many of these problems are never addressed because of myths about suicide in the African-American community. The NOPCAS website explains that two common myths about suicide are: only White people commit suicide or get depressed and depression is a personal weakness, not mental sickness.
"I don't know why people still believe that Black people don't get depressed," said Dr. Barnes. "Our brains function just like any other persons. When a person is depressed, they suffer from a chemical imbalance and that's when depression and suicide set in. That can happen to anyone."
In order to prevent Black youths from committing suicide, researchers at NOPCAS suggest helping to dispel myths associated with suicide, encouraging the youth to seek professional help and/or mental treatment and to create environments were they feel safe and comfortable enough to talk about their problems.