Black Children Are Dying By Suicide. I Know How They Feel.
CW: mental health, suicide, children
“For your safety, always stand behind the yellow line…”
I read these words as I sat on the rugged wooden subway bench, 12 or so dirty tiled feet from the line, a yellow line pocked with bubbles as a warning to your feet that you are getting too close. I reread the sign. “For your safety…” Safe?
I didn’t feel safe. At the time, I don’t know when I ever felt safe.
I was physically safe. I was not concerned about being attacked or being physically harmed by others. I’d been using Philadelphia public transit — Septa — since I was a toddler. At 11 years old, I wasn’t afraid of the world.
I was afraid of me.
While people stood all around, an invisible hand grabbed my heart and tried to pull me over that line. Coaxing me to feel my body on the edge as the wind precedes the train as it comes from the tunnel.
It took all my strength not to succumb. I imagined being weighed down by a giant rock on my lap and strapped to the wall.
This is my earliest memory of a round of depression that would become a feature of my self-concept for the next thirty years. It’s my first memory of the strong desire to no longer be here.
“Why Are More Black Children Dying by Suicide?” “Suicide Rates Rise in a Generation of Black Youth.” “Addressing the Crisis of Black Youth Suicide.” “Sounding the alarm on black youth suicide.” “Black kids and suicide: Why are rates so high, and so ignored?”
As these headlines starkly proclaim, Black children are in crisis. In the last thirty years, the suicide rate has grown for Black children while falling for all other racial and ethnic groups. The reasons are not well known but there are many likely candidates. Black children tend to experience more trauma during childhood than their non-Black peers, experiences that change their brains. The trauma associated with racial subordination in health care, social services, police violence, and general structural violence wreaks havoc on the psyches of the littlest and most…