When discussions are had about suicide, the focus these days is often on what’s occurring with very young people: children and teens under great pressure in the age of social media and bullying. But what many fail to realize is the numbers that inform those studies go past junior high and high school age and all the way into young adulthood, and what’s happening within the Black community in regards to this topic is jarring. In addition to suicide rates in general for people ages 10 to 24 in the U.S. jumping 57.4 percent from 6.8 to 10.7 between 2007 and 2018, according to the Suicide Prevention Resources Center, suicide rates within the Black community have been peaking during adolescence and young adulthood before declining around later adulthood (ages 15 to 34). Even more staggering, per statistics, within the Black community, the actual suicide death rate for men is more than four times the rate for women. We’re all going through it, but how much attention is being put on the weight Black men are quietly carrying?
“They’re trying to get to the pain that they can not really understand, or heal the pain they can’t stop and can’t really articulate,” says Dallas-based mental health therapist and expert Jay Barnett about the growing rates of suicide among Black men. Not only has he helped young male clients and everyday men online to prioritize their mental health and deal with suicidal ideations, he’s also a two-time suicide survivor. And while progress has been made in the 10 years since he grappled with that pain for people to talk openly about mental health, Barnett and other experts say Black men specifically haven’t actually been given the chance to be vulnerable, heard and understood.
“I always felt like if I told people ‘I heard voices,’ what were they going to think about me?” he recalls to ESSENCE. “The first time I said to my mom, ‘I’m having thoughts of suicide,’ it was ‘What is wrong with you? You’re…