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World Suicide Prevention Week

Candles burn during a candlelit vigil to mark World Suicide Prevention Week at College Green, Dublin. | Source: Liam McBurney – PA Images / Getty

UPDATED: 11:00 a.m. ET, May 10, 2023

Originally published: Sept. 10, 2021

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts and need someone to talk to, please click here for support.

The recent death of a former professional basketball player-turned-NBA executive was revealed by his daughter to be a suicide.

While addressing the death of Lance Blanks in a moving column that ESPN published on Tuesday, Riley Blanks Reed spoke about how her father died at the age of 56.

US Monastir v GNBC

Lance Blanks gets ready to announce a game on May 17, 2021, in Kigali, Rwanda. | Source: Nicole Sweet/BAL / Getty

“On the morning of May 3, 2023, my father, Lance Blanks, took his life,” Blanks Reed wrote before adding later:

People will ask, “How did we not see it?”

And people will say, “This wasn’t him. Someone like him wouldn’t do this.”

People will want more information.

But the fact is we will never truly know why. And we don’t need to. All we need to do is remember him, honor him, celebrate him and pour our love into the family that made him happy.

All we need to know is that, oftentimes, the people in the most pain are the giants in our lives.

MORE: Suicide Rates Are Soaring For Black People. Here’s What You Can Do To Help

Blanks’ death draws attention to a rising trend of Black people taking their own lives. While overall statistics point to Black people typically having among the lowest suicide rates, data from recent years shows that the COVID-19 pandemic has helped to change those numbers for the worst.

Whether it’s due to mental illness, stress, feelings of hopelessness or any of the multiple other reasons why people commit suicide, it is something that affects folks from all walks of life. Keep reading to find a list of notable Black people who have died by suicide.

Data provided by the Suicide Prevention Resource Center show that from 2010 to 2019 — the most recent years statistics were available for — Black people in the U.S. had a suicide rate of 7.4% per 100,000 people. That is compared to the overall rate of 13.2% per 100,000 people for everybody in the U.S.

When looking at the data according to age, Black people have the lowest suicide rates of all age groups, from childhood up through the mid-80s.

“Among Black populations, suicide rates peak during adolescence and young adulthood, then decline. This is a different pattern than is seen in the overall U.S. population, where suicide rates peak in midlife,” according to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center data.

Black males have more than double the suicide rate of Black females, but each group’s rate is significantly lower than that of their white counterparts.

Overall, “the suicide death rate for men is more than four times the rate for women in Black populations” and the “suicide death rate for the overall U.S. population is approximately double that of Black populations for both males and females,” the Suicide Prevention Resource Center found.

When it comes to suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts, however, the rates for Black people are commensurately higher than the previous categories. In fact, “the percentage of past-year suicide attempts was higher in Black adult populations,” the Suicide Prevention Resource Center said.

Similar numbers are consistent with Black high-school-aged youth, as “a higher percentage of Black youth have attempted suicide in the past year.”

But that Suicide Prevention Resource Center data has been upended by the pandemic, which has sent them shooting through the roof.

A recent study analyzed a group of Maryland residents during the first six months of 2020. Interestingly, at the height of the lockdown during the Spring of 2020, researchers found an “overall decrease in suicides rates compared to the previous three years,” the study notes.

However, investigators also uncovered some alarming data. While suicides among White Marylanders decreased by 45 percent between early March and May, rates of suicide-related deaths among Black people in the state spiked by 94 percent during the same time period.

psychiatrist Paul Nestadt, who conducted the study, said he believes the virus’ disproportional impact on the Black community could have contributed to the massive surge, noting that African Americans were impacted harder during the pandemic–both in terms of fatality and infection rates coupled with historic numbers of unemployment.

“Infection and fatality rates are higher among Black people, and we know that there are huge disparities in access to care, including mental health care,” Nestadt told USA News, adding that the data was concerning. “This is a recipe for bad outcomes. When someone is struck hard by things around the pandemic and they can’t get access to good mental health care, they are in the most danger.”

NewsOne has compiled a list of suicide prevention resources.

Keep reading to find a list below of notable Black people who have died by suicide, in no certain order.

1. Charles Johnson, former NFL player

Pittsburgh Steelers v Indianapolis Colts Source:Getty

Charles Johnson, who played wide receiver for four NFL teams beginning with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1994, died on July 17, 2022, after intentionally overdosing on drugs, the state medical examiner’s office in North Carolina said this week following a lengthy investigation.

USA Today reported:

Johnson, 50, was found dead at a hotel room about 6.5 miles from his house in Raleigh on July 17 after being reported missing by his wife the day before. The report said he had no reported medical history and no active prescriptions, but was found to have “acute oxycodone, hydrocodone and mirtazapine toxicity” after his death.

“In the previous week, he had been acting strange and had recently purchased a funeral and cremation service,” said the report obtained by USA TODAY Sports.

Raleigh police said officers responded to a call for a welfare check at a local Hampton Inn after an occupant had not checked out of the room on July 17. The report released Monday said Johnson was found unresponsive in the room lying on the bed. It said he had paid for a hotel room on July 15, returned home and then left his residence again but without several important items. His wallet, cell phone, keys and vehicle had been left at his residence, according to the report. His death was pronounced at the scene.

2. Stephen ‘tWitch’ Boss, dancer

Critics Choice Association's 5th Annual Celebration Of Black Cinema & Television Source:Getty

Stephen ‘tWitch’ Boss, the longtime DJ and dancer on the “Ellen” talk show, died by suicide on Dec. 13, 2022. He was just 40 years old.

tWitch was found dead in a hotel room in Los Angeles from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. A suicide note revealed “an ambiguous reference to his past challenges,” according to TMZ.

3. Cheslie Kryst, beauty queen

FOX's Miss Universe 2019 - Live Show Source:Getty

Cheslie Kryst, a former beauty pageant winner who also worked as a TV show hostess and attorney, died by suicide on Jan. 29, 2022, after she jumped to her death from an apartment building in New York City, She was only 30 years old. Kryst was the 2019 Miss USA winner who also finished in the top 10 in the Miss Universe competition that year.

4. Mayor Kevin Ward of Hyattsville, Maryland

The city of Hyattsville in Maryland announced the suicide death of its Mayor Kevin Ward on Jan. 25, 2022. The announcement said the 44-year-old died from “an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.”

5. Jas Waters, TV writer

Jas Waters Source:IMDB

Jas “JasFly” Waters, a television writer who penned scripts for hit shows like “This Is Us,” died by suicide on June 9, 2020. She was just 39 years old.

6. Etika, popular YouTuber

Etika, popular YouTuber Source:NYPD

Social media personality Etika, whose real name is Desmond Amofah, was found dead on June 25, 2019. It was later determined that the 29-year-old died by suicide after his body was found in the East River in New York City.

7. Capital Steez, rapper

Capital Steez, an up and coming New York City rapper who was already widely critically acclaimed, died by suicide on Christmas Eve in 2012 by jumping off a building’s roof. He was just 19 years old.

8. J.J. Johnson, trombonist

J.J. Johnson Source:Getty

J.J. Johnson, a pioneering jazz trombonist whose career spanned several decades, died by suicide on Feb. 5, 2001. He was 77 years old.

9. Chris Lighty, record executive

50 Cent Introduces His First Fragrance "Power By 50 Cent" Source:Getty

Chris Lighty, a record executive who also managed top names in hip-hop music, died by suicide on Aug. 30, 2012, from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was 44 years old.

10. Jovan Belcher, NFL player

Denver Broncos v Kansas City Chiefs Source:Getty

Jovan Belcher, a star linebacker in the NFL who played for the Kansas City Chiefs died by suicide after he killed his girlfriend on Dec. 1, 2012. Belcher was 25 years old and his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, was 22.

11. Stephanie Adams, model

Playboy Party with July Issue Cover Girl Vida Guerra Source:Getty

Stephanie Adams, a former Playboy centerfold model, died by suicide along with her 7-year-old son after she jumped from a hotel window in New York City on May 18, 2018. Adams was 46 years old.

12. Shakir Stewart, record executive

Young Jeezy's Birthday Party - October 4, 2005 Source:Getty

Shakir Stewart, an executive at famed hip-hop record label Def Jam, died by suicide on Nov. 1, 2008, after he shot himself. He was 34 years old.

13. Don Cornelius, host of “Soul Train”

Soul Train's 25th Anniversary Source:Getty

Don Cornelius, the founder and host of the “Soul Train” TV dance show, died by suicide on Feb. 1, 2012, from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He was 75 years old.

14. Phyllis Hyman, singer

Photo of Phyllis HYMAN Source:Getty

Phyllis Hyman, a popular R&B singer, died by suicide on June 30, 1995, from an apparent self-induced drug overdose on prescription pills. She was 45 years old.