Black males, Suicide

New Study Sheds Light On The Impact Of Racism On Black Male Suicides

Study reveals alarming suicide ideation among rural Black men in Georgia.

According to a new study from the University of Georgia, one in three Black men who live in rural areas in Georgia have thought about death or suicide in the last two weeks. Their experiences with racism during childhood may play outsized roles in the pattern. 

As UGA Today reported, the study illuminates that coming of age in an environment with limited resources and experiencing racism while growing up makes it difficult to have deep and fulfilling relationships with others. Feelings of mistrust and an abundance of caution towards relationships can lead to feelings of isolation, which leads to thoughts of death and suicide.

As Michael Curtis, one of the co-authors of the study, told the outlet, “I think we often don’t look at where the disparities are and who the individuals most at risk are when we’re talking about suicide ideation. We just know it’s bad, and particularly among young Black men.”

Curtis continued, “Historically, research has not invested a lot of time and effort in looking into what are the unique cultural contexts that make certain men more at risk for suicidal thoughts than other men.”

The rate of Black men who die by suicide is increasing at an alarming rate.

In the 2023 book The Invisible Ache, authors Courtney B. Vance and Dr. Robin L. Smith detailed what they believed indicated a need to change the conversation around the mental health of Black men. Smith told NPR, “[With] Black boys and Black men, the rates of suicide is increasing. The rate is accelerating faster than any other group in the country, in the United States. And so we have to ask why.”

Smith also contextualized the compilation of internalized anti-Blackness, telling NPR, “How is it that Black boys are often seen as scary and dangerous, even when they are 6 or 7 or 10? The experience that the white world has of them is their skin color and their gender, [which], put together, creates a level of fear. So that person who I’m describing, who is pathologized and demonized, can ingest that as if those lies are true and then never expose and be treated for what it has cost them to be Black and male in America.”

As it relates to the study, Curtis said that childhood experiences loomed large as the Black men they talked to entered adulthood.

“We found when Black men were exposed to childhood adversity, they may develop an internal understanding of the world as somewhere they are devalued, where they could not trust others, and they could not engage the community in a supportive way,” Curtis said. “Engaging with social support is critical for young Black men who experience many challenges to success.” 

Steven Kogan, the lead author of the study, and a professor in the University of Georgia’s College of Family and Consumer Sciences, told UGA Today that one way to combat these suicidal ideations and other negative reactions to anti-Black racism is to instill self-love in Black children. 

“More research is needed, but one finding is unequivocal: Loving yourself as a Black person is foundational,” Kogan said. “Teaching children and youth to be proud of being Black counters the potential for them to internalize negative messages about Blackness that pervade U.S. society.”

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