Mental Health & Suicide Prevention
in Black Communities

Many people in Black communities are uncomfortable discussing mental health due to cultural stigma, but over the past decade, more people are starting conversations and talking openly about mental health issues and their own struggles.

Oregon’s Black communities – like communities across the country – have seen an increase in the prevalence of mental health issues and suicidality. According to the CDC, the nationwide suicide rate for young Black people ages 10 to 24 increased by 36.6% from 2018 to 2021.

Many external factors can affect a person’s mental health, including:

  • Financial status
  • Racism and discrimination
  • Systemic barriers in healthcare, housing, food security, and education
  • Community violence & loss
  • Separation from family or loved ones

Struggling with any of these can negatively affect our mental health, and in some cases lead to trauma.

Racism and Discrimination Impact Our Mental Health

Every day, people of color experience racism in their personal and professional lives. Ranging from seemingly small disparaging comments or treatments to overt violence and exclusion, experiences of racism leave a person feeling drained – and over time, can harm our psyche and affect the way we move through the world.

Experiences of racism and discrimination can be traumatic and have a negative impact on our mental health. These traumatic experiences can exacerbate an existing mental illness or can lead to developing certain mental health issues.

Cultural Differences in Experiencing Crisis

We know that our communities react to struggles in different ways – and our warning signs for crisis may look different based on our identities and experiences.

Below are some examples of signs that a Black community member may be experiencing a crisis:

  • Reckless or careless decision-making
    • The person might say something like “I don’t care about anything; I don’t care what happens to me.”
  • Emotional pain or struggle may present visibly as anger, frustration, or irritability
  • The person may try to ignore the problem and focus on tasks, like work

The CDC found that Black adults are more likely to visit emergency departments when experiencing a mental health crisis than white adults – but face longer delays and are less likely to be admitted to a hospital for treatment.

Find Culturally Tailored Support

Advocating for culturally responsive healthcare, including mental health access and expertise, is imperative to improve outcomes in our communities. Lines for Life’s Equity programs partner with community organizations to provide training and support and create networks of culturally responsive services throughout Oregon and beyond.