BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The names of the 14 black men in East Baton Rouge Parish who took their own lives in 2018 were read aloud at an event Monday, Mar. 25 held to highlight the growing number of suicide cases. It’s a silent killer taking hold in the Capital City and beyond.
“On average, one person in every 11 minutes dies by suicide... that’s one male every 14 minutes,” said EBR Coroner Dr. Beau Clark.
The My Brother, You Matter event served as a chance for the community to open up and confront the problem head on. Two-time suicide survivor, Tonja Myles, organized the event and she says the conversation is just one step in solving the issue some call alarming, but not shocking.
“Guys are the last ones to go to the doctor when it comes to your physical health, so when it comes to your mental health, you’re not about that,” said Myles.
“The reality is wonderful people die by suicide and we’ve lost too many,” said Dr. Frank Campbell, a suicidologist.
For some, the message is personal.
“I have learned how to reposition my thoughts, but I also am not afraid of ashamed to say where I am or where my current mental condition is,” said Ronaldo Hardy.
Others though, say the problem starts in the home where all too often, young boys are taught that feelings are a sign of weakness.
“From an early age, we create these characteristics and norms that deprive black boys and men of the opportunity to raise their hand and say that I need help,” said Raymond Jetson.
Dr. Campbell has been studying the trend for decades. He believes it’s a crisis that will only be resolved if the negative stereotypes that come with mental illness and suicide are broken down.
“We got to get past that. I was born and raised in this town and if we can’t get past it here, I don’t know where we will get past it,” said Campbell.
It’s a taboo topic that community leaders say everyone has a responsibility to tackle.
“This is not a black, white issue and this is not a male, female issue, but a human issue and it can affect every last one of us,” said Dr. Jeremy Blunt.
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, you can reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.