According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, close to 1 million adults report attempting to commit suicide and 800,000 people die due to suicide every year worldwide. It has also been reported that calls to suicide prevention hotlines have doubled since 2014. Why is this? The answer to this question is complex. There is no one answer. People who commit suicide oftentimes struggle with some form of mental illness. Today, even in 2018, there’s still a stigma surrounding mental illness and mental health issues.
Oftentimes those in need of help don’t reach out or even know how to reach out. Sadly, according to several health professionals, children as young as 8 years old are beginning to commit suicide as well.
My first personal encounter with suicide was that of a dear friend in our family named Mike. Mike was well loved and liked by so many people. He appeared to have life by the tail and he was flying his kite high. I had no idea he was struggling and when I talked to others that knew him everybody was shocked. Were there signs and we just missed them? He appeared successful and was considered a “go-to” guy for many. He always seemed to wear a smile and now I wonder, was it just a façade? What was happening on the inside that even those closest to him could not see? We must try and see beyond the masks many people wear and really listen to what they say — and when possible, read between the lines. People that are considering suicide often drop clues if we are really paying attention.
The names of those who have taken their lives are endless. It is apparent that suicide has no respect of person. People of all ages, ethnicities, socio-economic status and genders fall to this disease. Yes, disease. Recently we’ve heard about Tina Turner’s son Craig Raymond Turner, or designer Kate Spade and TV personality Anthony Bourdain, just to name a few. More recently I learned of four youth (elementary and middle school students) that committed suicide, just since the beginning of this academic year.
Mental health issues often go undiagnosed (especially) in the Black community at a higher rate than other racial groups. We are subjected, not only to mainstream society’s mental health stigmas, but to our own community’s expectations of strength, which often keeps those in need from reaching out for help when they really need it. Add to this disproportionate stress from institutional and racial violence, and minimal access to health care, and the results can be devastating, leading some of our best leaders and role models to take their own lives.
Karyn Washington was a motivational speaker, founder of “The #DarkSkinRedLipProject,” and creator of the blog “ForBrownGirls.” She committed suicide on April 8. It was reported that she had been struggling with depression since the death of her mother a year earlier. Though she was only 22 at the time of her death, Washington had already made major contributions to the African American community by promoting self-love and challenging Eurocentric beauty standards. As we can see, those that are suffering can look normal, but it is up to all of us to read between the lines. If you think someone is hurting please make sure they call the National Suicide Hotline Number 1-800-273-8255.
Healing Without Hate: It’s a choice. It’s a lifestyle. Pass it on!