Suicide isn’t talked about in the black community

Columnist Myles Jenkins
Photo Submitted by Myles Jenkins.

Within 10 days, three people directly affected by school shootings committed suicide.

Two were survivors of the mass shooting that occurred February 14, 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, and the other was a father of a first grader killed in the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Sydney Aiello was 19 and attended Florida Atlantic University; she was also a close friend of Meadow Pollack, who died in the Stoneman Douglas massacre. The identity of the other Stoneman Douglas student, reported to be a sophomore boy, hasn’t been released. Jeremy Richman, 49, was a neuropharmacologist.

These three suicides made me think about suicide and depression in the black community and how it is rarely talked about. I personally know two people directly affected by suicide with the victim being one of their parents. I don’t think the black community really tries to understand the layers and psychological effects of depression until suicide knocks on the door of one of our loved ones; only then it’s too late.

In my experiences, a lot of black parents will tell their children to “suck it up” or “you can’t let people see you down” without knowing the full story behind their child’s abnormal behavior.

Before spring break, I conducted an interview with an individual who had overcome depression and the urge to commit “many suicidal attempts.” I reached out to her again and was granted another interview on this specific topic.

Isis Shaw, a graduating senior at FAMU – and a survivor – gave her thoughts.

“Suicide is a topic that people neglect because they don’t know much about the topic or they don’t think it’s relevant to the black community,” Shaw said.  “A lot of us struggle with mental illness because we’re taught that showing a sign of emotion is weakness so we neglect our issues and that turns into depression. There are many levels to depression and suicide is one. When people feel like they have no one to turn too and they feel alone they feel the easiest way to end their pain is to end their life. I’ve been in that predicament and it’s very difficult to get out of unless you have a strong community around you filling you with words of affirmation and my source was God.”

Our community tends to have a feeling of distrust toward therapists. We think that coming out of hardships alone is the way to go.

I understand independence and wanting to be strong, but sometimes there are battles psychologically that we just can’t face alone.

Kenya Williams, a theater major at FAMU, offered her opinion on suicide and depression in the black community.

“Our community believes that we can’t trust therapists; it’s pointless, we have to be strong alone,” Williams said “We have to try to ignore our emotions because there are ‘greater’ issues affecting us financially, socially and economically in the world. We don’t understand the seriousness of the signs leading up to someone committing suicide. It cannot be handled alone and we cannot be too wrapped up in our own lives to be oblivious to the signs.”

If you’re experiencing mental health issues or know someone who is, please call a crisis hotline and seek treatment. There are people who genuinely care.