July is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month
Proverbs 18:14 famously teaches,
“The human spirit can endure a sick body, but who can bear a crushed spirit?” NLT
African people in America have demonstrated amazing resilience in the face of four-plus centuries of every conceivable attempt to crush them physically, mentally, and emotionally. The onslaught of traumas heaped upon Black peoples, descendants of enslaved forefathers and foremothers, has produced many seemingly insurmountable challenges in the communities. The stressors experienced by Black people are multiplied beyond those experienced by the average rank-and-file American because of the overt and covert attempts to destroy this segment of American life.
There are many challenges that face the community. One challenge that must claim the attention of every person is the alarming increase in Black Youth Suicide. Remember that suicide is a 100% preventable cause of death, yet it is exploding among Black youth. In an article published by the Association for American Medical Colleges, Arielle H. Sheftall, PhD states,
Suicide rates among Black youth in the United States are growing at an alarming rate. From 2018 to 2021, the racial group that saw the largest increase in suicides among people 10-24 years old was Black individuals, with an increase of 37%. From 2000 to 2020, Black youth ages 10-19 also experienced the largest increase in suicide rates, a shocking 78%. And in a research study among the youngest children — ages 5-12 — Black youth were approximately two times more likely to die by suicide than their White counterparts. Black students also had a higher rate of suicide attempts when compared to their White and Hispanic counterparts.
These facts alone must raise the alarm in the Black Church. In the face of rights being rolled back and protections under the law being challenged and removed, the pandemic of suicide is rising in the community. The double-edged sword of violence resulting in murder and the silent violence of suicide threatens to decimate the Black community. How do otherwise healthy people fall under the weight of psychic distress? The proverb spells it out, A healthy spirit can endure a sick body, but a sick spirit cannot endure.
The Centers for Disease Control notes that for African American males between the ages of 1-19 and 20-44, homicide is the leading cause of death, 35% and 26%, respectively. The eruption of suicides and the staggering rates of homicide pose the greatest existential threat to Black men and, therefore, the Black community known since enslavement. Both homicides and suicides can be directly linked to Adverse Childhood Experiences or ACEs.
Knowing the probable cause of a child’s death and the causes that led to the child’s death should prompt immediate action by those who are empowered to act. The Africans in America face unique and growing challenges to the viability and sustainability of not just their communities but their very lives. What can be done to address and reverse the present and growing crisis? The causes are known and well-documented.
The question remains, do we have the collective will to meet the challenges head-on with more than lip service? A more detailed discussion of ACEs and what the community can do to mitigate their impact will be presented in the next installment of A Crisis On Many Fronts...