From 1991-2017, black adolescent suicide attempts rose 74%. In 2014, 80% of suicide deaths came from men in the Black community. One in ten black men experience incarceration before the age of 32. Students of color with mental health challenges or disability are more likely to experience adultification bias and receive punishment versus mental health support. Systemically, for many Black men this may imply that they do not have permission to express relational and emotional needs. Because of these realities, its imperative counselors challenge current attitudes and methodologies in reaching Black men in the counseling field.
Signs of Suicide:
Cultural & Historical Impact
Some Black men may discontinue services for the fear of being unable to relate based on seen/unseen identities of the clinician. We know representation matters, and not being able to see yourself in the counseling profession may create challenges for Black men to feel safe and begin their wellness journey. This issue challenges the gate keeping that occurs in academia and the need to recruit more heterosexual BIPOC men in counseling training programs. Currently, majority of literature on black men’s mental health come from Black women. While this research brings huge value to the community, receiving support from other black men may provide a corrective experience that they also can be held in community by other Black men as well. A testament to this power is displayed in dialogue of Black Men’s mental health among individuals like Chicago’s very own, Chris LeMark founder of Coffee Hip Hop & Mental Health, Chicago Rapper Vic Mensa, and State Rep., Lamont Robinson of IL.
Another missing component from Counseling research is the benefit in revamping Community Psychology Competencies. Its current limitations appear to miss the importance of building trustworthiness and access for marginalized communities. Part of the reason for climbing numbers in Black men suicide is because there isn’t adequate programming in neighborhoods Black men live in. Trying to persuade individuals to commute far from their neighborhoods and receive help can be problematic. Organizations like Sista Afya providing mental health to Black women in Chicago understand this mission. Lastly, there is some emphasis in the competencies on building working relationships with policy makers to support access. Perhaps community programing that is supported by state and grant funding can address the sustainability issue Black men face. This way, maintaining mental wellness is possible regardless of their financial standing.
Given these considerations, Black men may have improved opportunities to preemptively address their mental health needs.
Douglas, P. (n.d.). Black Boys, Black Men, and Suicide. Health.maryland.gov. https://health.maryland.gov/bha/suicideprevention/Documents/Session%201A%20-%20BLACK%20BOYS,%20BLACK%20MEN,%20AND%20SUICIDE.pdf
Kendi, I. X. (2016). Stamped from the beginning: The definitive history of racist ideas in America. Nation Books.
Leblanc, D. (2022). Black indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) Mental Health Fact Sheet. Rtor.org. https://www.rtor.org/bipoc-mental-health-equity-fact-sheet/?gclid=CjwKCAjwiOCgBhAgEiwAjv5whAj_4l4ZIlJ_VzcTBZ7VYwuCzH2sC71JgsDJiLB-9CVe4STKep0ZTBoCIBkQAvD_BwE
Society for Community Research and Action (2023). Competencies for Community Psychology Practice. Communitypsychology.com. https://www.communitypsychology.com/competencies-for-community-psychology-practice/
- By Dr. Marcus D. Smith, PhD, LCPC