Black Suicide: The Truth Behind The Stigma

    A still image of Jovan Belcher in uniformDon Cornelius. Junior Seau. Chris Lighty. Jovan Belcher. Once again, the spotlight has been brought back to an issue that deserves, but is consistently denied, a real and meaningful platform: black suicide.

    Jovan Belcher, 25, shocked the world by shooting his girlfriend, and the mother of his 3-month old child, Kasandra Perkins, 22, to death, then driving to the team training facility at Arrowhead Stadium and killing himself in front of his coach and general manager in a burst of violence.

    The mother told investigators that Perkins and Belcher had quarreled just before the shooting, but that Belcher had never before been physically abusive with her daughter, Snapp added.

    One of the most prevalent views within the African-American community is that we do not intentionally kill ourselves.  That suicide is something only white people or spiritually-weak people do.  That suicide is a cop-out, and that to even consider it is a “punk move”.  However, these apparent suicides and clinical research clearly indicate that African-Americans do commit suicide.

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    Why Do These Stigmas Exist In The Black Community?

    In the Black community, there is a culture of silence around the issues of mental health, sexuality, marital infidelity, homophobia and other forms of sexual difference, poverty, neglect and abuse, and specific health problems people are experiencing.

    It isn’t that people don’t talk about these matters at all; they just don’t regularly talk about them in public spaces. Instead, we whisper about them in safe, private spaces with people who shared our sensibilities of what it means to be Black, and where we can feel that we as a community aren’t being judged negatively. Any public talk that would expose, embarrass, alienate, or bring harm to a member of our family, close social network or race as a whole is avoided.

    While the foundations of these stigmas are meant to be protective, there are still the unintended negative health consequences that emerge.

    This culture of silence continues to be a significant risk factor for many health disparities in the Black community, particularly mental illness and chronic illnesses such as diabetes.

    How can we become healthier as a people? By finally giving a real voice, and not just whispers, to these stigmatized issues.

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