Suicide Prevention in Black Boys & Men: Seven Warnings Signs To Look Out For
I just learned about the passing of a Regina King's son, Ian Alexander Jr., and was convicted to create this video. My heart hurts of his parents and for a brother who was only 26 to take his own life. My heart hurts for any parents, loved one and their support network who has had to deal with saying goodbye due to suicide.
I felt like I had to do something to honor his life and legacy and the legacies of other boys and men who have lost their lives via suicide. In this video, I focus primarily on black male suicide prevention, but this applies to many men. I am focusing on Black boys and men because the suicide rate in my community has more than doubled in the last decade and is climbing.
Are you aware of the following alarming statistics?
• 78% of those who die via suicide are men
• For every death by suicide, there are 25 attempts
• Suicide is second leading cause of death for youth 10-19 & has doubled since
2007 for Black boys
• Suicide is preventable because there are so many warning signs to look out for
Below, I outline seven risk factors to look out for when screening for suicide when it comes to boys and men. It is my hope and prayer that this post will heal someone's son, brother, husband, father, boyfriend, partner, etc. and empower their support network to help them in time. I also want parents, especially mothers, to be mindful of these risk factors and actively work to correct them if you see them in your sons.
Seven Risk Factors:
1) Doesn't See The Point In Discussing Emotions- This mindset addresses what psychologists called "meta emotions" (how we think about having emotions). This is a toxic mindset because it makes men "not human". How can you be a man and not talk about your emotions? Emotions are the essence of who we are and how we feel about the world. A boy or man who cannot "emote" (express emotions) will suffer in silence, thereby giving him limited ways to cope. Change this at all cost.
2) Feels Incompetent- Men who feel like they do not measure up to others and feel incompetent, less than, powerless, without uniqueness are often depressed. Male self-esteem is based on competence:
How good are you what you do?
What do you do that is special from others?
What do you know how to do that is impressive to others?
How good are you at being a protector and provider?
How good are you in relationships with others?
A man who cannot answer those questions with confidence often struggles because the essence of a man is competency. So, make sure you help your son work hard, solve problems, find his unique gift and push your husband, boyfriend or special man in your life to find competency.
3) Purposelessness- A man who feels disconnected from his purpose often feels lost and alone. We need to feel connected to our unique purpose. Why did God create us and what did He make us special in being able to do? Men need the answer to that question and need to be connected to someone who can help him find it.
This is one benefit of the church; it provides a sense of purpose and a way to interpret hardships in life. It also connects you with God so that you can learn to pray, trust and believe even though life seems hopeless at times. Push your sons into a positive youth ministry and help him to find his way.
Also, expose your sons and men to different careers so that they can assess what fits and what doesn't versus passively saying, "I don't know" when you ask them about what they love to do or want to do for a living. Help the men in your life (or help yourself) by being active in searching for your purpose with the help of therapy, coaches, friends, new experiences, challenges, mentors, etc.
4) Loneliness- Far too men are loners and struggle making friends which leaves them without community. Interestingly, this is why the suicide rates for Black women (women in general) are so low. Most women have a tribe of women to look out for them if they are not well. Someone notices when they are struggling, missing from church, behaving differently, withdrawing, etc. and actively reaches out.
Unfortunately, a lot of men struggle to create and maintain active friendships like this. That is why relationships, organizations, work families, etc. are so important because they structure men into connecting with others. If your son or husband struggles with social relationships, address this proactively because he will likely struggle to find support if something happens to you or when stress gets high.
5) Pessimism- Watch out for boys and men who talk, post on social media or think that the only way to get rid of their pain is to disappear or commit suicide. Sometimes, life can create an air of negativity that can make you think that escape is the only solution because things will never change. This is why it is important to teach the boys and men in your life how to be optimistic and operate in hope. A protective factor to depression is to be able to find the silver lining or greater purpose to the current pain in life. It could be the difference to finding a solution and giving up.
6) Using Vices To Cope- Be mindful of our psychological connection to vices (sex, alcohol, drugs, aggression) in relation to solving our problems as men. How many times have you seen someone offer a man a drink in response to feeling stressed? How many men have resorted to sex outside of their relationship as a means to feel validated and better? How many times have you seen men chain smoke, drink, and combine sex to triple down on feeling better?
All of these combined with depressed mood are a recipe for disaster. Alcohol, by nature, is a depressant and will only make you feel worse. Yes, you can temporarily escape with drugs and sex but you have to deal with the damage your decisions created in your life afterwards. Regret is a powerful emotion and harming those you love by cheating, negative behavior while drunk or high, etc. can only make matters worse.
We must teach our boys and the men in our lives how to cope with stress in a healthy way. Do you work out, do yoga, meditate, talk about your issues with trusted friends or wise counsel, get a massage, journal, etc.? We must teach men better ways to cope versus resorting to vices that only make matters worse.
7) Men Who Feel Like A Burden Due To Pain & Shame- This is the one warning sign that is the most alarming! When men start talking about feeling like a burden because they cannot stop hurting their families, loved ones, children, etc. due to their behavior, it is time to ring the alarm. Why? Men who feel like burdens often think that everyone's else life would be better if they simply were not here anymore. This is dangerous and requires immediate intervention and life change.
If you are concerned that someone you care about is feeling like this, please call the suicide prevention hotline 1-800-273-8255 or text TALK to 741-741 and then get them counseling immediately.
P.S.- One way to change the mindset of the man who refuses to seek help is have him read:
Proverbs 15:22 - "Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed."
Why? It shows that the world's most successful and strongest men seek wise counsel to avoid failing in life. The President of the United States has an entire cabinet and aides to advise him. College, university presidents, and CEO's have board of directors, trustees, etc. to advise them. Pastors have a board of trustees to advise them on matters of the trust.
We all need wise counsel to succeed in this thing called life. So, seeking advice is wise not unmanly. In fact, it is more unmanly to cause your family strife because you won't seek help because you end up stressing out those whom you love. Also, the pain that loved ones feel following suicide last a lifetime. Seek help versus stress your loved ones out like that. Someone was created to help you!
I pray this blesses you and helps you support the young men and grown men in your life. If you are a man reading this, help others, help yourself by taking action to gain solutions so that life can feel and actually be better for you. God Bless!