The stigma of suicide have always had people saying “it’s not a black thing”, but unfortunately it is. Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen various deaths of Black women in the media due to suicide. Last year we lost, Karyn Washington, of “For Brown Girls” (FBG) and the #DarkSkinRedLip Project. Earlier this year, Titi Branch, co-founder of Miss Jessie’s, also committed suicide.
Although the number of suicide related deaths when it comes to black people are quite low, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide affects Black youth at a much higher rate than Black adults and it’s the third leading cause of death among Blacks ages 15-24.
Danielle Brooks, star of Orange is the New Black, recently penned a post about the times she’s contemplated suicide. Brooks explained that the majority of her insecurity came from her self-image issues and her body:
After reading over old journal entries, I realized some days were less successful than others. I came across one that took me aback. In this entry, I had written about how insecure I was about my weight. I wasn’t able to wear the flared jeans and cute tops the other girls wore—they didn’t come in my size. On top of that, I was dark-skinned and had natural hair. By the standard definition of beauty I had absorbed from the world around me, I had three strikes against me: I was too dark, too curly, and too fat.
Because of this insecurity, I was desperately unhappy. I was even having suicidal thoughts. But you wouldn’t have known it. The world saw a young teenage girl who was happy in her skin, laughed a lot, and didn’t care what anyone thought about her. The truth of the matter was I wasn’t happy in my skin; I laughed to hide my pain, and cared deeply what my peers thought of my appearance—to the point that I even was having suicidal thoughts. But you wouldn’t have known it.
Even now, I still find ways to make light of the sadness I was in back then. When I was interviewed for a magazine recently, I joked that when my mother would ask me to go for a walk around the neighborhood, I would hide behind the house because I was lazy. But the real reason I hid was because I didn’t want the boys in the neighborhood to laugh at the fat girl walking around the cul-de-sac.
Brooks’ sentiments echoes those of a lot of Black girls and women. But thankfully she was able to see past everything and learned to embrace and love herself. Brooks said that now she’s trying to help young girls feel good about themselves and hopes to have a positive impact on them.
I’m making a promise to speak out for that little girl that I used to be. I might not have the power to change what media puts out there, or to single-handedly convince young girls like me that they should love themselves. But what I can do is start with me: living each day, embracing who I am. Embracing who I am by refusing to hide my legs or or cover my arms because they make someone else feel uncomfortable. By realizing that every stretch mark on my body is kissed by the sun, and no longer wishing them away. By no longer operating out of a place of fear. So if you see me on a carpet with my arms and legs out glistening, or my midriff exposed, it’s a reminder to myself and the world that I know I’m beautiful.
According to the CDC, a 2011 survey of high school students showed that the percentage of Black female students reporting suicidal thoughts and plans was similar to that of White female students but higher than that of Black male and White male students:
Suicide isn’t an issue of color, and hopefully people will recognize that black women are affected by it as well.
Photo Credit: Glamour/Caitlin Mitchell