Just because Black people commit the fewest number of suicides each year doesn’t mean there wasn’t a crisis with African-Americans killing themselves. That point was made clear in last week’s episode of “We’re The Campbells,” which airs each Tuesday on TV One.
The reality show that documents the lives of Erica Campbell, a Grammy-winning gospel singer, and her husband, Warryn, provided a glimpse into the mind state of someone contemplating suicide when she admitted that she once thought about killing herself as a pre-teen.
“I remember when I was 12, we were living in Inglewood and, um, I tried to kill myself,” she told Warryn on the episode.
She continued: “Something was telling me to ‘just slice your wrists,’” she said while making a back-and-forth cutting motion with her hands, “in the kitchen.”
Warryn responded in disbelief.
“I’ve known my wife for 20-something years and we’ve been married for 17 years – it’s crazy to me that I’ve never heard that before,” he said while wondering aloud who else in his family has had similar thoughts.
Black people tend to believe that they’re exempt from suicide, Kimya N. Dennis, a professor of sociology and criminal studies at Salem College, wrote earlier this year.
“In the African-American community, there’s a tendency to label suicide and mental health conditions as ‘crazy’ or evidence that you aren’t praying enough,” Kimya wrote in part. “Or, as some commentators and academics have said, suicide is seen as a ‘white thing’ – “‘African-Americans don’t ‘do’ suicide.’”
Black people had the lowest suicide rate according to recent statistics from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center broken down along racial lines, but all major ethnic groups were trending upward in that department.
It was unclear what prompted Erica Campbell’s suicidal thoughts, but a 2014 study found that “women who have experienced more race and gender-based discrimination have a higher risk of suicidal ideation than women who have experienced less discrimination.”
Worse yet, according to Mental Health America, Black people “are 20 percent more likely to report serious psychological distress than adult whites;” “more likely to have feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness than are adult whites;” and especially relevant to Erica Campbell’s experience, “Black/African Americans teenagers are more likely to attempt suicide than are white teenagers (8.3 percent v. 6.2 percent).”
The “We’re The Campbells” scene where Erica Campbell is discussing her suicidal thoughts with her husband follows below: