Breaking stigma critical to address Black men, suicide

“Seek help when you need to as you face challenges put in front of you.”

Breaking stigma critical to address Black men, suicide

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death for Black males ages 15-24, and suicide rates have doubled among Black men since 1980.

Rwenshaun Miller has worked in the mental health field for over a decade and understands the challenges faced by Black males in America.

His nonprofit organization, Eustress Inc., was born out of his desire to bring awareness to the importance of acknowledging, improving and preserving mental health. It’s a topic, Miller said, that is often marked by stigma and denial, particularly in the Black community.

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“Black men are burdened with the unhealthy misconception of what it means to be strong,” Miller said. “We are brought up with an expectation to be tough and not show weakness.”

Given those pressures, Miller emphasizes the importance of self-care with a particular need to focus on emotional health.

“When learning how to take care of yourself, you need to learn who you are,” Miller said. “Oftentimes, especially in this country, we are forced to live up to certain expectations based on our identity. That leads to many layers of stress but also does not allow you to explore who you are as a person.”

A successful entrepreneur, Miller has earned a master’s degree in counseling, founded a nonprofit organization and authored a book.

In 2005, an academic scholarship took him to UNC-Chapel Hill, where he played football and ran for the track team.

He hit rock bottom during his sophomore year.

He lost interest in things he used to enjoy and heard voices telling him that he was worthless.

“I overdosed on pills twice, and then the last time, I put a gun to my head and pulled the trigger and it jammed on me,” Miller said. “It was like, ‘You can’t even kill yourself right. What is wrong with you?’”

He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

He blogged about his experience after he received treatment and therapy. His hope was that other people would open up about their struggles.

“We grew up in an era where what happens in this house, stays in this house,” Miller said. “Well, the house is about to burn down. We don’t talk about those things. I do it to help the next generation and the generation that came before me.”

There are a number of environmental issues unique to the Black community.

“We face a variety of stressors including racism, overt and covert, in various institutional and structural settings, microaggressions, colorism challenges and lingering impact of slavery,” he said.

Miller suggests acknowledging your likes and dislikes, things that help and harm you, and most importantly, your emotions and feelings.

“This process can be difficult, so do not be afraid to reach out to a professional for help,” Miller said. “There are clinicians out there who you can relate to.”

If you are not sure if you need support, consider setting up an assessment with a mental health professional.

Suicide has a number of complex and interrelated and underlying contributing factors that can contribute to the feelings of pain and hopelessness.

“No matter how much the world makes you question your worthiness, your importance, and your power, you deserve the ability to live and thrive. Seek help if and when you need to as you continue to face whatever challenges are put in front of you,” Miller said.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals. If you, or you believe someone you care for, are in crisis, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

If you have an inspiring story to share, email Kevin Campbell, WSOC-TV/WAXN-TV/Telemundo Charlotte public affairs manager, at Kevin.Campbell@wsoctv.com.