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Soul Train and black culture pioneer Don Cornelius took his life today.  According to TMZ he was in the midst of a trying  divorce with  personal health issues. Don is one of many black men today taking the sad route of suicide over  life. Obviously he succumbed to the pressures of his depression.

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The suicide rate among black men has increased in such a way that it has been labeled the third leading cause of death for black men between the ages 15 and 24.  Despite this increase in numbers, the topic of suicide is still considered “taboo”. The stigma is even stronger in the black community. One problem, , is the stigma associated with depression itself. More than 60 percent of black individuals don’t see depression as a mental illness, which makes it unlikely they will seek help for it.

It goes back to the days when blues music was invented as a way to sing about pain and distress. Blacks just consider it part of life. We pride ourselves on being strong after surviving 250 years of slavery and years of segregation and discrimination. Depression, then, is seen as a sign of weakness.Our community practices “slow suicide at great rates as well.The first step to help is public awareness. bnYou must understand the signs of  depression.

These signs include:

  • Irritability
  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in sleep habits
  • Headaches, stomach aches, pain all over
  • Chronic fatigue – not wanting to get up in the morning
  • Sadness that continues for up to a month – spontaneous crying
  • Social withdrawal – a loss of interest in activities and things once considered enjoyable

This is other self- destructive behavior that can accompany depression. This includes drug addiction, alcohol addiction, gang involvement, and other high-risk behaviors.

Recent CDC studies show that from 1980 through 1995, suicide rates increased most rapidly among young black males. For black males aged 15-19, the rate increased 105 percent. During the same period, the overall suicide rate for all persons of the same age increased only 11 percent. Though CDC researchers gave no reason for the escalating self-carnage, some suicide prevention experts speculated that the jump in suicides was an ugly by-product of middle-class life. In other words, as more blacks climb the social and economic ladder, they encounter the same pressures and frustrations as their white middle-class counterparts in the chase for better careers, bigger incomes and richer lifestyles.

The National Hopeline Network 1-800-SUICIDE provides access to trained telephone counselors, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Or for a crisis center in your area, go here.