Black Boys, Suicide & Shame: What Can The Village Do?

young man looking into the cameraThe promising future of a popular Hampton University graduate cut short left many in disbelief—particularly since it was his choice. Yusuf Neville was set to marry and had the admiration of many celebrities given his work in the service industry, but his last tweet before jumping off a hotel parking deck conveyed the sentiment gnawing at his heart: Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. The rate of suicide among African Americans stands at 8.0 per 100,000, slightly below the national average. However, Black boys account for over 82% of these deaths by suicide and their overall rate is on the rise.

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While these statistics paint a clear picture of some within the Black community being in pain to the point of considering suicide as the best viable option, the surprise of deaths by suicide in the aftermath of these events speak to an important question: how can we prevent these tragedies and better understand what compels some among our community to believe suicide is the best option?

The story of suicide is often narrated by shame. Shame is a force that prompts involuntary retreat into what is likely a distorted self-perception and places a person further from the people and supports that can potentially restore a sense of wholeness while easing psychological pain. Historically, the Black community has faced numerous challenges that have attempted to undermine the integrity that a valued person possesses.