Study Finds Link Between Black Men’s High Rate of Suicide and Early-Childhood Exposure to Racism

A new study from the University of Georgia has examined the high rate of suicide among young Black men and discovered a connection between the frequency of Black men’s suicidal ideation and their exposure to racial discrimination in childhood.

The research team surveyed a sample of 504 Black men from rural Georgia three times over the course of several years. The survey consisted of questions regarding the participant’s childhood, feelings and beliefs regarding close relationships, instances of unfair treatment regarding their race from close relationships over the previous six months, and depression symptoms and thoughts of suicide over the previous two weeks.

The results showed that the participants who reported experiencing economic hardships, trauma, or racism during childhood had more difficulty developing healthy relationships, and subsequently were more likely to experience suicidal ideation.

“The quality of our relationships is what sustains human beings,” said Steven Kogan, lead author of the study and a professor in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences at the University of Georgia. “For people who have suicidal thoughts, there’s this sense that no one knows me, nobody cares about me, there’s nobody there for me, I am alone.”

Dr. Kogan adds, ““More research is needed, but one finding is unequivocal: Loving yourself as a Black person is foundational. 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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