by Cesca Janece Waterfield
For many years, there existed a significant difference in the rates of suicide between black Americans and white Americans. In a social health disparity that was positive for black Americans, they took their lives in far fewer numbers than whites. In fact, before 1965, the suicide rate among blacks was one fourth that of whites. After 1970, suicide rates among blacks had reached half that of whites.
However, a study published last month by Morehouse College in Atlanta suggests the divide is closing. Studies show that from 1980 to 1995, the suicide rate for black young men almost doubled, from about five per 100,000 of the population, to thirteen. While the good news is that the suicide rate for black women remains among the lowest of any group, the tragic flip side is that suicide is now the third leading cause of death among black male adolescents.
What could be the causes? Data show that young black males are more likely to live in challenging family environments. Generally, there is an absence of male role models for young boys, since sixty-eight percent of all black households are single-parent households. The combination of family stress and violence in our communities affects everyone, and is likely partly responsible for rising suicide rates of black males.
Also, because many black communities often stigmatize mental illness, signs are frequently ignored, even by loved ones. The Morehouse study determined that for cultural and social reasons, black youths often express suicidal feelings through complaints of physical aches and pains, rather than sadness or depression. This makes diagnosis more challenging.
Fourth, we often find the relationship of someone who can recognize our experiences most helpful. It’s not surprising that in many cases, a person seeking help may desire an African American counselor or physician. However, just 4 percent of the nation’s psychiatrists, 3 percent of the psychologists, and 7 percent of social workers, are black.
So what are some solutions? The first step must come from family and friends. We must educate ourselves to recognize the behavior patterns that indicate a problem, and then support one another to get help.
10 Signs it’s Time to Get Help
All of us experience times in our lives when we feel hopeless about our circumstances. You may wonder how to recognize when to reach for professional help.
- You can’t get enough sleep or you sleep more than usual.
- You cry suddenly or uncontrollably over seemingly minor things.
- You are no longer fulfilled by activities that once brought you fulfillment.
- You are experiencing a greater number of fears.
- Concentration for any length of time is much harder.
- You feel guilt over things that are not your fault.
- You’re suddenly extremely angry or you can’t seem to sort through your feelings.
- You find yourself being aggressive with your children or you fear that you will become violent with them.
- You’re using alcohol or drugs to manage the pain.
- You feel you simply cannot cope with your life or you’ve thought about suicide.
If you can relate to three of these, take your first step toward professional help with some of the steps below.
Remember: There are many ways to find a therapist. The most important factor to consider when choosing a therapist is your connection with this person. The right therapist will be a caring and supportive partner in treatment and recovery.
Are you covered by Health Insurance?
If you have health insurance: Ask your primary care doctor for an initial referral. If you don’t have a primary care physician, locate a phone number or Web address on your insurance card. Determine what is covered by your policy and how to go about choosing an appropriate mental health provider in your area.
If you don’t have health insurance, contact the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) at 1-877-267-2323 to determine what services you can get.
Call a Mental Health Hotline
– They can help by referring licensed mental health care providers. The following numbers are toll-free and many provide trained counselors 24-hours a day. They can offer information, resources, and a non-judgmental ear.
The Crisis Line – Virginia-based help, 24 hours a day, 1-800-542-2673
Richmond Behavioral Health’s Emergency Services – For residents of Richmond only; 24-hour Crisis Line, 819-4100 www.RBHA.org
Bon Secours Richmond Community Hospital, 225-1700, Bon Secours offers evaluations within the emergency room and adult treatment for crisis intervention. In-patient treatment is available, as well as referrals for out-patient treatment. 1500 N. 28th St. www.BonSecours.com
Richmond Community Services Board – Main number, 819-4000, For information about state-operated facilities, contact the Dept. of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services at 786-4837; providing treatment, rehabilitation, and prevention services for individuals and their families whose lives are affected by mental illness, mental retardation, or substance use. 107 S. 5th St.
The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill Helpline 888-486-VAMI Mainly an advocacy service, they offer a few educational and support programs. They will also provide information on mental illnesses and referrals. Information about community services for families and individuals in the Richmond-area at NAMI of Central Virginia 285-1749 www.NAMIVirginia.org
Virginia Treatment Center for Children, 828-3129, A facility for children with mental health disorders, the Pediatric Mood Disorder Clinic is part of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at The VCU Medical Center. Out-patient services for children, evaluations, residential treatment, acute care treatment, and day treatment program for children, through age 17. www.VCUHealth.org/vtcc
Center for Psychological Services and Development, VCU, 828-8069. By matching clients to advanced doctoral candidates and researchers, the Center is able to provide psychological, career, and assessment services at reduced costs to adults, children and families in the Richmond area. Outpatient counseling for children, teens, adults, and couples; Career councseling, and education assessments. 612 N. Lombardy St. www.HAS.VCU.edu/psy/cpsd
National Hopeline Network – Help is available at any time at 1-800-SUICIDE
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – Help is available at any time at 1-800-273-TALK
Mental Health America, formerly known as National Mental Health Association – 1-800-969-6642
Explore churches, religious organizations, and community mental health clinics
. Many of them offer counseling and treatment, and may do so on a sliding scale.
The Virginia Institute of Pastoral Care can connect you with counseling which integrates wisdom from the faith traditions and the behavioral sciences. To schedule an appointment, 282.8332 2000 Bremo Rd. Suite 105 www.VIPCare.org UVW