A Little More than Just History

February is Black History Month in the United States and was established to fully concentrate on the celebrations, achievements, and contributions of African Americans throughout US History. February is also important to push front page awareness of the historical hardships and undeniable present ones African Americans have faced and still face today. We have been seeing more and more stories of racism on the news, stories that may be new and unbelievable to the United States as a whole, but unfortunately are well known and unsurprising to the Black community. What we don’t see on the news is the mental aftermath of racism and the immense social divide. With this continuous division, repetitive stories of violence, and unequal opportunities, it is easy to feel hopeless and isolated. These emotions very often lead to questions such as “What’s the point of living?” and “How can I make this pain end?” A growing population in the Black community has turned tragically to suicide as the answer.  


Currently, 13.4% of the US population is African American. With this, it is alarming that about half of all suicides in the US during the year 2019 were African Americans who died by suicide. For other populations in the US, it is more common to see suicide rates the highest at midlife. Within the African American community, suicide rates peak during adolescence and young adulthood, meaning that severe suffering is beginning much earlier. 


 There was an increase in African American youth suicide rates between the years 2003-2017, with a heavy increase in males between the ages of 15 and 17. Annually, the suicide rate for African American boys has increased 3.5%. Though the suicide death rate for men is more than four times the rate for women in Black populations, it is beginning to even out between males and females, especially among Black girls (no data from non-binary populations was found). The suicide rate for African American girls has increased almost 7% each year and about 40% of these suicides are girls between the young ages of 12 to 14 years old. Though we have this data, mental health research of the African American population is also and unfortunately, still limited, meaning that the data present is likely to be higher percentages than what has been found by researchers. 


More recently, we’ve seen suicide rates decline across the US during the COVID pandemic, but increase in the African American community, illuminating the inequality of resources that have led to these thoughts of hopelessness and isolation.


If you are an African American that experiences this first hand or in your community, you are not alone and there are people that want to help you. The road away from feeling hopeless may be a hard one and not everyone will truly understand what you are going through. It can be a struggle to see what the future holds or recognize that someone out there cares. There are people that want to listen and support you through the hopelessness, the anger, the discouragement, the loneliness, the trauma, and to offer you hope. Take each day step by step, even if they are baby steps and as Earl G. Graves, Sr, a successful African American entrepreneur and advocate, once said, “hold on to your dreams of a better life and stay committed to striving to realize it.”

Resources: 

  • Caron, Christina. “’What’s Going on with Our Black Girls?’ Experts Warn of Rising Suicide Rates.” The New York Times, 10 Sept. 2021.
  • “Racial Ethnic Disparities of Black Populations.” www.sprc.org, Suicide Prevention Resource Center, 2019.
  • Sheftall, Arielle H., et al. “Black Youth Suicide: Investigation of Current Trends and Precipitating Circumstances.” Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Sept. 2021.
  • Platter, Roz. “COVID Suicide Rate Increase Black Americans, Young People.” Healthline, 9 Nov. 2021.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s