Did you know that this week –September 10-16–is National Suicide Prevention Week? While many of us are quick to say “Black people don’t commit suicide”, the data tells a disturbingly different story. Studies released in 2015 showed that there were more suicides among African American children ages 5 to 11 than among white children. And the Center for Disease Control reported in 2015 that for African American youth ages 10-19 the rate of male suicides was 3 times higher than that of females.
GCP first wrote about the importance of monitoring our sons’ mental health earlier this year in “Saving Our Sons: Helping Them Cope with Mental Health Issues”. In that post we talked about Chance the Rapper’s struggles with anxiety. Other hip hop artists have recently spoken out about coping with anxiety and depression, including Kendrick Lamar, and Kid Cudi, who late last year checked himself into rehab for depression and suicidal urges. In a Facebook note explaining this, Cudi wrote, “I simply am a damaged human swimming in a pool of emotions everyday of my life…I d[on’t] k[now] what peace feels like”. The good news: Cudi finished rehab and returned to the stage in much better shape, exclaiming “I know life is crazy, we can make it through. I am living proof!”.
Depression, anxiety and suicides are also on the rise among college aged Black men, according to the American Psychiatric Association. Several factors can contribute to this, such as the isolation of being one of few blacks on campus, racial discrimination, or financial and academic stress. The recent racist violence in Charlottesville and the onslaught of natural disasters plaguing our nation are likely causing additional stress.
So what can we do to help our sons avoid anxiety and depression? According to the Mayo Clinic, a strong parent-child relationship can help prevent depression. To promote this strong relationship they suggest that we:
Set aside time each day to talk
Encourage your son to express his feelings
Praise his strengths, whether it’s in academics, music, athletics, relationships or other areas
Offer positive feedback when you notice positive behavior
Respond to your child’s anger with calm reassurance rather than aggression
If your son is reluctant to talk, spend time in the same room. Even if you’re not talking, a caring attitude can speak volumes.
Of course, if you have any concern that your son or daughter is having trouble coping, seek professional health from a therapist or mental health clinician. Put aside whatever biases you may have about seeking therapy and find help for your child. If you can’t get a referral from a friend, check out Psychology Today’s list of African American therapists, found here.
Want to know more? Check out The Steve Fund, a foundation dedicated to the mental health and emotional well-being of students of color. And be sure to join the special live hangout hosted by the Campaign for Black Male Achievement to explore black male mental wellness TOMORROW, September 13, at 7pm EST. You can find additional details here.