American Association of Suicidology Partners with Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman to Address Suicide in Black Communities
Chief Executive Officer
Director of Public Relations and Media
Washington, D.C. (January 28, 2020): The American Association of Suicidology (AAS) is honored to host Missing Matters: Suicide Loss in our African American and Black Communities in an upcoming virtual platform along with Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman and suicide prevention subject matter experts from across the country. The event will be hosted February 6, 2021 from 2:00 – 5:30 p.m., EST and will feature breakouts that highlight suicide loss from a number of different experiences in Black Communities including loss of a child, parent, sibling, client, partner, and general survivorship.
“It is critical that we open spaces uniquely suited to Black mental health, and that includes Black grief,” said Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman. “Our community requires professionals with cultural competence, safe spaces to cover the kinds of challenges we experience, and the comfort of not being the only face of color in the room. Every step we can take to create more of these spaces, whether its initiatives like this one or resources at the federal level, gets us closer to meeting an urgent need and I am grateful to work together with the American Association of Suicidology on this issue.”
AAS has worked closely with our expert members to develop this unique event, holding a space for African American and Black loss survivors to learn, share and heal with each other. National loss initiatives tend to have few participants from these communities. Existing resources are generally led by the dominant white culture and address its issues, leaving other cultures without a voice. We feel strongly that we need a space for African Americans and other Black communities to process their losses to suicide in that safe space made by and for them. This conference will be the first in a series and we plan to use this template to offer space for other ethnicities and cultures to form their own loss and healing events later on.
“I cannot thank the Association enough for taking the initiative to reach out solely to Black communities,” says Dr. Donna Holland Barnes, Co-founder of the National Organization for People of Color Against Suicide (NOPCAS). “As mentioned, this will be the first in a series of creating spaces for other communities of color where our voices will be heard by the majority. We, people of color, each have our own unique perspective on managing suicide in our communities and putting us in an indiscriminate mass without regards to particulars, is an injustice. This is the first initiative by a majority organization using their resources to reach out and to give us our own space!”
In 2019 (the latest year for which we have finalized data) there were 47,511 suicide deaths in the US, an age adjusted rate of 13.9 per 100,000 population. In the same year there were nearly 1.2 million suicide attempts. And while a visual analysis of 2018 and 2019 suicide mortality data show decreases in the number and rate of suicide for almost all demographic groups, the rate for black Black men has shown a 1.7% increase. Suicide remains the second leading cause of death for Black youth.
“As an African American loss survivor, I can attest to the feelings of loss and isolation that the stigma of suicide forces us to endure,” said WyKisha McKinney, Zero Suicide Program Manager at The Harris Center for Mental health and IDD. “It is beyond time to open doors and remove barriers to care for our community. By hosting this conference, AAS is breaking down walls and creating access to hope for all people impacted by suicide.”
“I am so very proud that AAS is hosting this vitally important conference for loss survivors in the black community to share with one another,” said Vanessa McGann, PhD, AAS Loss Survivor Chair. “Demand has been incredibly high, with registration capping out in under a week, showing us how needed this space is and allowing us to talk with allies and experts about how to support efforts at prevention and postvention in communities of color.”
Unfortunately, we don’t know how the recent pandemic and instances of civil unrest will affect suicide deaths in the US and abroad, but it is our responsibility to take action now. By hosting this conference, AAS holds suicidologists and the field at large to a higher standard in how we care for our fellow humans.
For the Media: Responsible reporting on suicide, including stories of hope and resilience, can prevent more suicides. Please visit the Suicide Reporting Recommendations for more information. For additional information, please visit SuicideReportingToolkit.com.
About AAS: The American Association of Suicidology is the world’s largest membership-based suicide prevention organization. Founded in 1968 by Edwin S. Shneidman, PhD, AAS promotes the research of suicide and its prevention, public awareness programs, public education and training for professionals and volunteers. The membership of AAS includes mental health and public health professionals, researchers, suicide prevention and crisis intervention centers, school districts, crisis center professionals, survivors of suicide loss, attempt survivors, and a variety of laypersons who have in interest in suicide prevention. You can learn more about AAS at www.suicidology.org.