Note from BW of Brazil: It goes without saying that this is a topic that many of us don’t like to talk about. Think about the last time you heard that someone had committed suicide. Now think of how you felt when you learned that someone you knew had ended their own life. I have personally known more people who were victims of homicide, but I also know a few people who ended their own lives. Often times, the news of suicide catches you by surprise, but then, other times, when you sit and think of the last times you saw someone who committed suicide alive, you start thinking of that person’s mood or behavior whe you saw them last.
I remember being a child when I learned that one of the men, Clifford, in the family that used to watch me while my parents worked had killed himself. The guy was probably in his early 30s. I remember that, as he loved movies, when I was in his presence, we often watched movies that came on television. One night the family’s home caught on fire one late night/early morning. I still remember seeing the fire department and all of the red lights flashing that night. The family’s house was about 8 houses down the street from mine. It was a big family and almost everyone managed to escape the fire. But one didn’t make it. Cliffs’ brother. Cliff, like anyone else, took his brother’s death hard, blamed himself for not being able to save his brother from the flames that engulfed the house that night.
Clifford was depressed for some time after that fire and his brother’s death. Some say he was never the same. Clifford ended up ending his own life. I don’t remember exactly how long it had been since the fire, but when I heard the news, I just remember how down he was everytime I saw him after that fateful night.
We know that life situations often lead people to bouts of depression and desperation with not being able to cope with these challenges. When we consider the obstacles that are placed in the paths of black people on a global scale, it shows an incredible sense of resilience that suicide levels aren’t higher than they are. Now I know that people will often disregard the hands societies deals to their black populations and then simply blame said population for the ills that affect their communities. In other words, if black people are in the situation they are in, it’s their own faults. Usually, this sort of opinion comes about without any knowledge of the historical facts that contributed to such scenarios.
In my view, these sorts of attitudes simply present a sort of knee-jerk denial. It comes from a need a to simply want to believe that one’s own groups has been given certain unearned advantages over others. Like I’ve said repeatedly, people know. We saw this recently when many white Brazilians were honest enough to admit that, no matter what they’ve stolen from any store, they would not have been whipped like the 17-year black teen who was caught stealing a chocolate bar a few weeks ago. They know.
In a study from more than a decade ago, a group of white American said they would only need $10,000 they had to suddenly live their lives as black people. Apparently these same people don’t know that, collectively, white Americans hold more than 90% of all American wealth while blacks have between 2-3%. But then the question was altered. When the black/white dynamic was removed, and whites were told they lived in an imaginary country in which there were majority and minority populations and they were part of a minority that experienced the same hardships as black Americans, they suddenly increased the amount of money it would take for them to be willing to switch places to $1 million. In other words, re-framing the same question but removing the words “black” and “white” from the equation and white people admitted they would need 100 times more money to live as the underprivileged minority that had the same social situation as black people.
Like I said. They know. Maybe they can’t admit it…but they know.
Anyway, if you’ve read any material here at BW of Brazil, you know that one of the main reasons that most black Brazilians experience life as they do boils down to a simple issue of color. And the consequences of this imposed disadvantage sometimes leads to sad endings.
Lack of positive references is one of the causes of suicide among young black people
By Silvia Nascimento
Genocide, racism, imprisonment, torture, police violence, unemployment. These are the themes where black faces appear as characters from massively shared stories on social networks that have a great mental impact, especially in young people and adolescents.
A survey of suicide widely released by the Ministry of Health in early September, conducted between 2012 and 2016, shows that in the 10-29 age group the risk of taking their own lives was 45% higher among young people who claim to be pretos e pardos (black and brown) than among brancos (whites).
If we talk about young black males, the chance of suicide is 50% higher in this group than among whites in the same age group.
Lack of representation kills
The same study by the Ministry of Health shows the main motivations for suicide of blacks are:
a) no place,
b) absence of a sense of belonging,
c) feeling of inferiority,
k) feeling of incapacity;
m) social isolation.
The first three elements pointed out by the research are almost directly related to representation. Not seeing oneself represented, leads to the non-place, which leads to the feeling of not belonging. Result: inferiority complex.
Sense of community and healthy content consumption can save
Seeing yourself and being around those who look like you increases your self-esteem, after all, in society we all want to belong to a group, even if it’s very small.
When this does not happen, depression, which is the opposite not of sadness but of vitality, makes the young person more fragile, leading to a questioning of the importance of his own life.
Now imagine that in the midst of this vulnerability, the young black man had access to real and fictitious content that would give him resources that would mentally activate his sense of hope, motivation and belonging?
One example, every black man and black woman knows how they felt at the end of the movie Pantera Negra (Black Panther). Even though it is a fictional story, the plot has real elements, such as the contribution of African peoples to ancestral science and knowledge.
In music, advertising is the same. In the music of Iza or Rincon Sapiência, in the image of the young black woman entering university, our conscience was rich in symbols that bring us happiness through identification.
In the community field, how many groups of young black teenagers, not just focused on social ills (which need to be corrected), but on empowerment, do you know?
It’s not about forgetting that racism exists and living in a utopian reality, but it is assuming an identidade negra (black identity) beyond someone who suffers from racism.
The Ministry of Health document also says:
“It is essential for the community to provide social support for black adolescents and young people, as community involvement plays a role in preventing suicide. Being recognized and appreciated as unique individuals and feeling themselves belonging to their groups makes the community protect the most vulnerable, building social connections and developing resilience skills in the difficult situations of life.”
Help without leaving home:
Life Valuation Center – CVV
Telephone: 188 (toll free) or
http://www.cvv.org.br for chat, skype and email.
SAMU 192, UPA, First Aid and Hospitals.
CAPS and Basic Health Units (Family Health, Health Centers and
With information from Mundo Negro