Study Finds a Link Between Racial Discrimination and Suicidal Thoughts of African American Men

Suicide deaths among African American men have risen dramatically during the last 20 years, and racial discrimination may be a contributing factor in many cases, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of Michigan. The study found that various forms of discrimination are associated with increased rates of depression. When it involves racial discrimination, the risk of having suicidal thoughts among African American men becomes particularly concerning, according to the study.

The study used data from a large group of African American men from the National Survey of American Life. Participants were asked if they experienced discrimination in their everyday lives, which included being insulted or harassed, being treated with less respect or being perceived as incompetent. Participants also reported if they had ever seriously considered ending their own lives. The results indicated that the link between racial discrimination and thoughts of suicide was statistically significant.

Lead author Janelle Goodwill adds that “experiences with discrimination do not have to be overt to be harmful toward African American men’s mental health.” The authors recommend “expanding current mental health interventions to include culturally relevant suicide prevention resources that also offer strategies and techniques for dealing with discrimination.”

Goodwill is a Ph.D. candidate in the joint program in social work and psychology at the University of Michigan. She holds a master of social work degree from the University of Michigan and a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University.

The full study, “Everyday Discrimination, Depressive Symptoms, and Suicide Ideation Among African American Men,” was published on the website of the journal Archives of Suicide Research. it may be accessed here.

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  1. Joseph Bailey II, MD, FACS says:

    CAN CHILDREN’S SILLINESS HELP PREVENT SUICIDE? (9)
    In reviewing my maturing life events, I could have predicted the presently rising suicide rates among Black youth. As a boy, we youth were engaged in unsupervised, independent play on immediately close vacant lots or fields. We little children acted “Silly”—a display of “Aliveness,” wrapped in “Excitement”—a display of Real Self total freedom of boundless thought–able to, on a moments’ notice, dart here-and-there into the surreal, then into fantasy. In the process, there are “pop-up” parts which, with their Arrangements/Rearrangements and Combination/Re-combinations create a series of things. Each thing causes a pleasant surprise because none of those parts normally go together. Collectively, those thoughts and acts of “Play” fashion a Pleasure atmosphere. Such “Silliness” is the product of children investing in the most insignificant of “Things”—“Things” going nowhere—“Things” doing nothing on their own. Such Caricatures are ‘overloaded,’ ludicrous, distortions of something that exaggerates and distorts each imagined “Thing’s” most prominent features into varied odd forms. They occur so fast as to produce a comic effect, displaying as giggles. Somewhere in all that action, those involved shared a like-kind illusion into which they could abandon themselves into the fullness of funny absurdity. For me, in my early childhood, recalling these “Feelings” of “Delicious” Fun were my first remembered times of feeling completely free, with an infinite, harmonious Creatures/Creations connection. Each experience reinforced my identification with my Highest (Divinity) Self, as noted by my sense of the “5Ss” of Safety, Security, Self-Confidence, (Private Selfhood Personal Power) Strength, and Stability. Meanwhile, my entire wonderful boyhood Black community cared about and cared for every youth. In turn, all youth respected, consulted, and followed orders of our Ex-Slave Elders. This, consisting of the very best of what we all we had, provided each a sense of well-being. Such was in spite of Supernaturals lynching 1 or 2 a month.
    None knew what “more than Enough” of “Creature Comforts” looked like. Yet, they knew Material things were unable to impart a sense of inner well-being. There was no Black community crime and, on leaving home, we never locked doors. The 1960s Civil Rights Movement gave Black People a peek of what being free might look like. Since, slavery had beaten the Spirit out of many Black People, causing some to engage in Evasion and Extreme Despair, those afflicted had all ideas crushed of ever achieving “The American Dream”. During slavery, White people were Black People’s only models for what was not enslavement and thus Whites served as the standard for what freedom might look like. So, many did the terrible thing of imitating Whites and thereby gained none of Whites advantages. Much, much worse was most losing the “ME/WE” closeness that made them ‘superior.’ The resultant beginning breaking of the afflicted’s Real Self unity + the overstretching of “ME/WE” interpenetration and interconnections put them on the path to Self-Absorption (a ‘me, me, me’ self-interest trend) whose Value source was from the Secular (human-made) External World. Such a copying is a manifested prescription for creating “Funk” minds contributing to, among others, the 73% increase in suicides among Black youth between 1991 and 2017.
    So: (1) the seeing of anti-Play of a Spiritual nature; (2) being socialized out of Play; (3) today’s youth having loss of “ME/WE” togetherness of their grand-parents; (4) Black youth continually experiencing similar racism hostilities of perhaps lesser degrees but with a Selfhood no longer as strong as were their African American Ancestors; and (5) having to deal with deep problems almost “Alone,” since Social media destroys knowing how to have close friendships and Good Manners—have contributed to erosion cascades of associated mental faculties, ending in suicide. I no longer see Black youth acting very “silly”. Silly Fun, I dare say, is a necessary part of mental progress for doing acrobatic (flexible mind) thinking, as by directing unrealistic “Things” to bring about changes in a Fantasy world. Each comic creation is “looked at “upside-down”/“inside-out”—serving to develop Critical Thinking. Silliness is a signal of ones Selfhood participating as a total, natural, and orderly form in the harmonious Wholeness. That is the ultimate in Mental Health! Maybe by the community returning youth to a Silly Fun’s mental freedom lifestyle might stop some youth’s cascades to suicide.

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