Suicide is a major public health problem and a leading cause of death in the U.S.  There is a lot we can learn about how to recognize suicide warning signs.  In the African-American community, suicide is an unspoken ‘tabooed’ topic.  Persons who have suffered from trauma, hopelessness, chronic diseases, and everyday life stressors are seen as having ‘a nervous breakdown’ or are weak.  Religion may provide comfort for the sick but some may pray in silence for wellness only.  Dr. Donald Grant, a Psychologist said “Millions live in the shadows suffering alone, managing the weight of the world in silent bent knee prayer…if we ignore it for long enough or fail to name it, it will magically disappear. 

    Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young black men.  The rates of suicide have doubled among young black men over the last 10 years.  Women of all ethnicities attempt suicide at higher rates than men but men complete the act at a higher rate (CDC).  The warning signs of suicide are:  a person talking about    hurting themselves, self-medicating, extreme changes in mood, diet or sleeping patterns.  It is critical to quickly connect the person to support  services which may include calling 911, a visit to the emergency room, or crisis center.  Minority  communities tend to under-utilize mental health services across all social and   income levels, and some may die in silence.  Studies found that people who are familiar with mental health services and providers (psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, nurse, counselor or practitioner) will more likely make an appointment.  How can we make an impact?  Realize that violence, trauma,
incarceration, school drop-out and health disparities impact one’s overall  health and well-being.
     Promoting a safe and supportive environment which provides opportunities to build relationships among people, families and communities is a key preventative goal.  We have to ‘Break the Stigma of Silence’ and seek professional help when prayer may not be enough.  While prayer may provide spiritual comfort, we can begin to address the whole person-body, mind and spirit.  Although prayers are powerful, there are also other professional resources that can be provided for those suffering from depression and risk of suicide. 

Call the Crisis Hotline at (800) 273-TALK or make an appointment with your healthcare provider.                                   

                                                                                                                                                                                        Dr. Nina & Norwood Coleman Jr., LCSW 

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