The Importance of Bullying and Suicide Prevention for Our Youth
by Executive Editor Timantha Norman
If suicide was a black phenomenon and all of a sudden there was an uptick in white kids committing suicide, there would be a national outcry,” stated Michael Lindsey, the executive director of New York University’s McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research. According to a study from the Journal of Community Health, “suicide rates among black girls ages 13-19 nearly doubled from 2001 to 2017… [and] for black boys in the same age group, over the same period, rates rose 60 percent” (NBC News, Oct. 8th, 2019, N. Charles). Due to historical trauma for black people when it comes to the white medical industrial complex and the institution of therapy, many often forego the treatment they so desperately need. There are numerous obstacles that often exacerbate the mental, emotional, and societal barriers for black youth and adults when it comes to seeking out assistance with suicidal ideation. Anti-black sentiment, LGBTQ discrimination, and childhood trauma are just some of the many causes of peer-to-peer bullying and subsequent suicidal thoughts and actions that need to be addressed in a more urgent manner in our society.
I spoke with Brie Wright, the founder of R.U.B.S. (The Real Understanding of Bullying and Suicide), a local organization that focuses on education and advocacy trainings around bullying and suicide prevention, about the importance of honest dialogue around these topics and the experiences that led her to this work.
Norman: What experiences have prompted your passion for spreading awareness around bullying and suicide in the community?
Wright: Having worked in the mental health field, I have witnessed so much. However, it was not until I dealt with a client who committed suicide that I realized there might have been something I could have done to prevent that situation from happening. I thought perhaps if I had recognized the warning signs earlier or had more resources available in the event that situations like these happened, a different outcome would have occurred. With bullying, I have noticed that oftentimes individuals that are dealing with bullying are more likely to have suicidal thoughts.
Norman: What are some of the most common misconceptions people often hold when it comes to bullying?
Wright: One of the most common misconceptions are that “Kids will be kids,” not “Everything is bullying,” and that “These kids need tougher skins.” when in fact, the kids who are victims of bullying are, and have been, crying out for help. Sadly, their cries for help have fallen on uninformed ears.
Norman: Why do you think there is such a stigma around speaking about suicide in the black community?
Wright: In my opinion, I feel as though as a community we think that black people do not attempt suicide or even have suicidal thoughts. Folks in our community often feel that when we do speak about it, we are putting people in our business and that is not acceptable for a lot of folks.
Norman: What lasting impact would you like R.U.B.S.’ programming to have in the community?
Wright: That it is normal to deal with issues that bother us. If someone is causing them or if you’re feeling like you want to harm yourself or others, it is ok to ask for help and utilize your resources at your disposal. Most importantly, when it comes to your life or other lives, “It’s A Serious Matter!”
For more information about R.U.B.S., please visit their Facebook page.