Humans are born with a natural will to survive. From birth one begins to cry and breathe in order to demonstrate that fight to enter this phase called life. But for a very small percentage of the humans that make it past that first gasp for air, something occurs in their life that motivates them to escape their physical existence. And when they succeed at being the sole responsible party for ending their own life, we call it suicide. When living within a culture where suicide is becoming increasingly popular the aim here is to provide concerned families with the tools necessary to identify, prevent, and intervene when they feel one of their members is becoming motivated to end their own existence.
How bad is it?
In 2010, the CDC indicated that the suicide rates for people of African descent of any age was 5.23 per 100,000 people, while the overall U.S rate was almost more than double that at 12.08. During that same time, suicide was the 16th leading cause of death for people of african descent of all ages, but the 3rd leading cause of death for males aged 15-24.
This points to a trend of suicide being successfully attempted at younger and younger ages in the African community. This trend is especially prevalent with the males, as one of the fastest growing rates of suicide exists among black boys. (Suicide Prevention Resource Center, 2013) The loss of the future leaders of their households and communities has a strangling effect on the social, economic, moral development of the people of African descent living in the U.S.
The roll of mainstream media
The media’s love affair with the topic of suicide has blossomed over the last couple of years. One of Netflix’s most popular shows last year entitled 13 Reasons Why reminds one of a scavenger hunt by 13 people for the 13 reasons why they were responsible for a young girls suicide. Educators and Psychologists warned parents that the show would influence children and adolescents to imitate the self-harm and suicidal threats observed during the series. (Balingit, 2017)
In the music industry, the song XO Tour Llif3, which contains elements of suicidal threats by one friend to another, was named as having one of the top 15 year defining lyrics of 2017 by Pitchfork magazine. (Pearce, 2017) Next, the song 1-800-273-8255, which is about a boy of African descent who is homosexual and thinking of killing himself, has as its hook the lyrics “I Don't want to be alive…I just want to die, today.” As we can see, the media has been busy with the topic of suicide in 2017. Although we can not say that this will cause an increase in suicidal behavior, it well definitely have an effect. This is all taking place during suicide awareness month 2017.
Whats the risk?
Suicide risk assessments are key to prevention and intervention. The first step to assessing
suicide risk is to identify if the person has been exhibiting suicidal ideation, or thoughts about committing suicide. The next step to assessing suicide risk is to find out if the person has attempted suicide in the past. And lastly, one has to find out if the at-risk individual still has access to the means of suicide that was attempted in the past. An individual who meets all three criteria is said to be a high-risk of suicide and should be seen by a professional.
These are all the protection you need
If you would like to decrease the chances that a young man of African descent commits suicide, there are a few protective factors with which one should become familiar. Some of the protections for people of African descent are having spiritual beliefs and personal devotion. Among those with diagnosed psychiatric disorders, spirituality has been found to delay the age of onset of suicidal ideation as well as decrease the number of psychiatric disorders.
(SPRC, 2013) Social and emotional support from family members, peers, and the community have also been shown to protect this population from taking their own life. And lastly, a strong sense of African identity, heritage, and history have all been identified as protective factors against suicidal behavior.
Everyone is born with the natural will to live. But sometimes, things happen during the course of some peoples lives which causes their will to shrivel up and die. This trend has been disproportionately affecting young boys and men of African descent over the last 10 years. This trend is also due to a number of factors ranging from the media’s love affair with the topic of suicide to people of African descents over-acculturation into mainstream society.
Having the knowledge of how to address the issue of suicide will have a short and long term positive impact on the lives of adolescent males of African descent, their families, and their communities.
Balingit, M. (2017). Educators and psychologists raise alarms about ’13 Reasons Why’, The Washington Post
Pearce, S. (2017). The 15 lyrics that defined 2017, Pitchfork
Suicide Prevention Resource Center. (2013). Suicide among racial/ethnic populations in the U.S.: Blacks. Waltham, Ma: Education Development Center, Inc.