Suicide Among African Americans Today

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Suicide Among African Americans Today

I ask myself, “What is something that has an effect on African Americans today?” After days of much thought and coming up with nothing I said, “Well, I’m an African American… What’s something that has been effecting my life?” SUICIDE… Whether it be committed or attempted, suicide is something that I see to be a growing issue among the African American culture. I believe this to be brought on by either 1. Depression 2. Fear or 3. Mental Illness

Suicide a hidden crisis that is taking the lives of more African Americans today than ever. Nearly a million people worldwide commit suicide each year, with anywhere from 10 to 20 million suicide attempts annually. About 30,000 people reportedly kill themselves each year in the united States. Suicide is the eighth leading cause of death in males and the 6th leading cause of death in females. It is the third leading cause of death for people 10 to 24 years of age.

Suicide is a taboo subject among many cultures, but the denial of mental health disorders runs rampant among African Americans. Between 1980 and 1995, the suicide rate of black males doubled to about eight deaths per 100,000 people. The authors of a new book are uncovering an unspoken crisis in the African American community. Amy Alexander, author of Lay My Burden Down" was just a teenager when her brother Carl took his own life. Still reeling from the tragedy, Amy teamed up with renowned Harvard psychiatrist Alvin Poussaint to dispel the myths of suicide among the black community. "It is very much a misperception that black people don't commit suicide and that comes in part from a need the very real and legitimate need for black people for many years to be very strong," says Alexander. "They see mental disorder and depression as a sign of personal weakness or moral failure," says psychiatrist Alvin Poussaint, M.D. of the Harvard Medical School. The suicide rate among black men has doubled since 1980 making suicide the third leading cause of death for black men between the ages 15 and 24. Poussaint calls his own brother's death from heroin abuse a slow form of suicide. "Psychologists and psychiatrists have to pay attention to those types of behaviors and look at them in a context in the same way they would look at someone who, in fact, was depressed or maybe suicidal," says Poussaint.

Like others, African Americans may display depression through physical symptoms like headaches and stomachaches and may complain of an aching misery. "There must be an increased awareness about the unique aspects of mental health in black Americans."

Doctor Poussaint says one reason African-Americans may not seek out professional help is because only about 2.3% of all psychiatrists in the United States are African American. Amy feels it's important that culturally sensitive training become a part of the standard mental healthcare education process. She emphasizes mental health problems are often physically related and can be treated through talk therapy or through medication.

Between 1980 and 1995, the suicide rate among black men doubled to nearly 8 deaths per 100,000 people. Suicide is now the third leading cause of death among black men between the ages of 15 and 24. Despite this increase in numbers, the topic of suicide is still considered "taboo". While this is true nationwide among all groups, Alvin Poussaint, M.D., a Harvard psychiatrist, says the stigma is even stronger in the black community. One problem, he says, is the stigma associated with depression itself. More than 60 percent of black individuals don't see depression as a mental illness, which makes it unlikely they will seek help for it.

Dr. Poussaint says it goes back to the days when blues music was invented as a way to sing about pain and distress. He says blacks just consider it part of life. He also says blacks pride themselves on being strong after surviving 250 years of slavery and years of...
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