In 2014, the rate of suicide for African-Americans was 5.63 out of 100,000. To some, that number doesn’t seem so high—especially when you compare it to whites, which was a whopping 17.61. Each year, 44,193 Americans die by suicide—and for each one, 25 Americans attempt it. Why are so many of us killing ourselves? That is a very pressing question for another day. Today, the discussion on the table is about mental illness—such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc.—and how the black community is doing an injustice by ignoring it.
While white people are more likely to die from suicide, black people are more likely to attempt it. That fact isn’t as widely shared, of course, for reasons that don’t need to be discussed now. When envisioning victims of depression and suicide, most people think of young white females; black females are stereotyped as stronger, almost even dispassionate. Attention-seeking DL Hughley summarizes the stigma in a single tweet, right after the death of Debbie Reynolds.
Debbie Reynolds died a day after her daughter did! Black Mama’s don’t die cuz they kids do!They cry and say God don’t make no mistakes!
— DL Hughley (@RealDLHughley) December 29, 2016
And let’s never worry about a man suffering from mental health issues, especially a black one, because the culture of toxic masculinity in this country prevents those issues from ever being spoken about. But that, too, is a discussion for another day.
If anything, people of color should be the ones most concerned about mental health, considering the silent abuse and micro-aggressions that we receive on the daily. Historical adversities have made us socioeconomically weaker than our white-counterparts—and that, believe it or not, links to damaged mental health. Studies even show that adult African-Americans are more likely to have feelings of sadness, hopelessness and worthlessness than adult whites. Shocking, isn’t it?
I remember sitting in class one day and listening to one of my classmates digress about her mental health. She exclaimed that nobody in her family understands it, and that the topic is almost taboo in the black community—which is nothing but the truth. I’ve felt similarly, but “there ain’t nothing for me to be depressed about,” so the emotions sit inside and sizzle until the day that they finally overflow.
Nobody wants to overflow.
My lasting remark is a message to the black community—all over the world. The stigma against mental health needs to stop. Depression is not only a “white people’s problem.” It is a problem for all of us. It is not something that simple prayer and concealed indifference can fix. It is not something that simply goes away with age, or maturity, or whatever you want to call “getting over it.” Sometimes, depression doesn’t even have a definite cause; it just happens, it hits you when you least expect it, and the best thing that a person can have to combat it is support.
Support. That’s all that needs to be given. Stop sweeping broken glass under the rug—you’ll get cut one day, but then it’ll be too late.