#JamesDonaldson On #MentalHealth – Advocates Address The Factors Contributing To The Spike In #SuicideRates Among #Black #Men

James Not Alone T-Shirt

Maurice noted that there is evidence that his inability to express his inner turmoil is something that some other #Black #men who have struggled with #suicidalideation have experienced

Neighborhood Wellness Foundation, hosting a healing circle in Sacramento, CA.

By Aldon Thomas Stiles, California #Black Media

Last year, #America mourned the tragic #suicides of two #Black #men who were celebrated for their exceptional talents and renowned for their achievements in the entertainment world and their links to Hollywood. The first was #Stephen“tWitch”Boss, a co-executive producer and guest DJ on the Ellen DeGeneres Show. The second was Ian Alexander Jr., who was the son of Academy Award-winning actress #ReginaKing.

Away from national headlines, tens of thousands of families across the #UnitedStates are grieving over loved ones who took their own lives – with men outnumbering #women four to one as states across the country – including California – report alarming #suicide rates every year.

Among #Black #Americans, #suicide is having a unique impact on #Black #men.

This fact is well-known to Etienne Maurice, the founder and CEO of WalkGood LA, a community wellness-focused organization based in Los Angeles and led by #Black and Brown individuals.

“When I was going through my psychosis and I was manic, I did have #suicidalthoughts. I never thought I was going to actually commit to doing it, but the thought was scary enough,” Maurice told California #Black Media (CBM) at his #Black men’s healing circle event in Los Angeles, titled YouGood.

The high-profile #suicides deaths of Boss and Alexander and the rising suicide rate among #Black #men – while tragic and unsettling – are not surprising to Jamal Averett, an actor and attendee at YouGood, who told CBM many #Black #men are “screaming inside.”

Data from the California #MentalHealthServices Oversight and Accountability Commission, indicates that the #suiciderate for #Black individuals in California rose by 31.1% between 2010 and 2019, a substantial increase when compared to other #ethnic groups.

“I think in order for us to really get those rates down, we have to build community with other #Black #men,” Averett said.

YouGood brought in 181 #Black #men to participate in guided yoga, meditation, journaling and exercises designed to encourage expressing their feelings.

One of the goals of the event was to challenge the #stigma of emotional vulnerability among #Black #men.

“Growing up, we’re always taught to hold it in. Just be tough,” Averett said.

The organizers stated that another significant objective of this monthly event is to create a safe and supportive community for #Black #men, who have been conditioned to exhibit stoicism from a young age, to initiate the process of healing from the historical and daily traumas they have experienced.

#James Donaldson notes:
Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.
Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.
Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space.
Find out more about the work I do on my 501c3 non-profit foundation
website www.yourgiftoflife.org                            Order your copy of James Donaldson’s latest book,
From The Verge of Suicide to a Life of Purpose and Joy


Maurice explained how #traumas, left unchecked, can take hold of someone’s life and spiral out of their control.

“I’d be in bed and be arguing with my mom, because I didn’t want to get out of bed,” Maurice said, sharing memories of interactions with his mother, the actress Sheryl Lee Ralph of Moesha and Abbott Elementary fame. “And I didn’t know why because I wasn’t that person — my mom never raised me to be that person, and she didn’t know me to be that person. So, it can be frustrating on all levels.”

Maurice noted that there is evidence that his inability to express his inner turmoil is something that some other #Black #men who have struggled with #suicidalideation have experienced.

“I didn’t even have a language for #mentalhealth. I think what drove me to that point was not having control,” Maurice said.

Rodrego A. Byerly is the President and CEO of EVITARUS, California’s only #Black-owned-and-led public opinion and market research firm. He echoed Maurice’s point.

“There are a number of contributing factors I would point to, first and foremost a need for greater education and resources at our fingertips for how to cope with stress in all of its forms in life,” Byerly said.

What makes this crisis unusual and alarming is that the #suicide rates for non-#Hispanic #White people decreased by 4.5% between 2019 and 2020, while the rate for non-#Hispanic #Black people increased by 4% according to a #CentersforDiseaseControlandPrevention (#CDC) report.

Shakari Byerly, Managing Partner and Principal Researcher at EVITARUS, pointed to racism and social unrest as a potential explanation for this phenomenon.

“Everyday discrimination is associated with higher rates of depressive symptoms, and also what’s called #suicideideation, which are thoughts or contemplations of #suicide,” Ms. Byerly said. “I think also the fact that #depression and #anxiety are gateways to #suicideideation as well.”

Dr. Kristee Haggins, Executive Director of Safe #Black Space, said that while disproportionate violence targeting #Black people is not a new occurrence, the level of exposure to incidents of anti-#Black violence has increased.

“There’s this heightened view again, because it was splashed all across the media,” Haggins explained.

Maurice told CBM that repeated, highly publicized murders of #Black #men – specifically the murder of Ahmaud Arbery – is what inspired him to build his organization, stating that he started WalkGood to “fight for #Black lives.”

The #Black #transgender community is also witnessing a surge in #suicidalrates and this population has also been subjected to heightened levels of violence and hate crimes.

Rhonda Smith, Executive Director of the California #Black Health Network, statewide organization committed to promoting health equity for #AfricanAmericans and #Black Immigrants, advises those struggling with #suicidalideation to reach out to people close to them, utilize resources in the community, such as churches, and call #988 if they are experiencing a crisis.

Smith – as well as Maurice and Averett – assured those who are dealing with #depression and desperation that although you might feel otherwise, you are not alone.

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