Addressing the Rising Concern of Suicide Among African Americans
September is a crucial month for mental health awareness, as it marks both National Suicide Prevention Week and Month. While the focus has often been on the general population, this year, a spotlight is being shone on the African American community, particularly in Ohio. The alarming increase in suicide rates among senior citizens has made this issue more pressing than ever.
The Ohio Initiative
In Ohio, a state-wide initiative is underway to address the impact of suicide on the African American community. Led by Jewel Woods, founder of the Male Behavioral Health outpatient mental practice in Gahanna, vigils are being held across cities like Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati. The aim is to remember those who took their lives and to break the silence surrounding this issue. Alarmingly, Black male Ohioans have the highest suicide rates in the state, a fact that cannot be ignored any longer.
Breaking the Stigma
The stigma surrounding mental health in the African American community is a significant barrier to seeking help. Woods points out that many in the community believe that suicide is a “white thing or a crazy people thing.” This misconception perpetuates the silence and lack of support for those struggling with mental health issues.
Cultural Perceptions and Misconceptions
Growing up in the South during the 1980s, the belief was that Black people were too emotionally tough to commit suicide. This perception, although flawed, was rooted in the community’s resilient spirit, honed through years of fighting against racism and oppression. However, a 2022 study published in the academic journal Deviant Behavior challenges these assumptions, calling for a more nuanced understanding of the issue.
The Role of the Church
The church has traditionally served as a sanctuary for the African American community. While faith and religious involvement have been linked to lower rates of suicide, the notion that prayer alone can resolve suicidal tendencies has become increasingly contentious. It’s crucial to understand that spirituality and mental health can, and should, coexist in the healing process.
Mental Health and Spirituality
The Black church often proclaims, “Jesus will fix it,” affirming the miraculous healing virtue of Christ. However, it’s essential to recognize that an active spiritual walk is also necessary for mental well-being. Scriptures like Romans 12:2 encourage believers to renew their minds, promising a divine transformation in how we live.
The Importance of Boundaries
Maintaining mental well-being also involves setting healthy boundaries. The stigma that mental health difficulties are a sign of weakness needs to be eradicated. Open conversations about mental health can go a long way in breaking down these barriers.
As research continues to explore the cultural perceptions of suicide within the African American community, it’s crucial to address the shame associated with seeking help. No one should feel compelled to end their life because they are afraid to admit they are not okay. It’s time to break the silence and start the conversation.