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Buffalo community working to fight suicide crisis among Black youth

Black youth under 13 twice as likely to die by suicide
Posted at 6:40 PM, Sep 21, 2022

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Youth in Western New York are facing a growing danger. We're all talking more about mental health, but the reality is, things are getting worse for Black children in Buffalo.

"Young people do think about ending their lives. They feel things are just that bad that they don't want to go on," said Chandra Redfern, CEO of the Buffalo Federation of Neighborhood Centers.

She has these conversations with kids often.

"They don't feel safe, they don't want to go to the store. They don't feel safe, so we see a lot of young people with anxiety. They say you'll just get over it by caregivers and life isn't that bad," said Redfern.

But so many of them need help. The Congressional Black Caucus rang the bell in 2019, releasing a study showing the rising rate of suicide in Black youth. Black youth under 13 were twice as likely to die by suicide.

And this is before the pandemic and before the mass shooting at Tops on May 14th.

"They already maybe didn't feel safe, maybe being stopped or maybe some of them live in areas where there's a lot of violence and now what happened on may 14th it opened up a new world to many of them," said Redfern.

In past years, Black youth were not considered high risk, as numbers are still higher among white youth. Among ages 10-17, 29% of white children died by suicide in 2018 compared to 11% of Black children, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

But the increase over the years is higher for Black children than any other race.

Experts point to several reasons why numbers are climbing:

  • Exposure to racism and violent crime
  • Social media use
  • Stigma around getting help for mental health

Because of that stigma, they're less likely to get help. So there's an effort coming up to meet them where they are at one of our community's pillars, the church.

"We want to lead you to Jesus, but we want to get you some professional help as well," said Shannon Carter, Assistant Pastor at Ephesus Ministries on Durham Ave.

Pastor Carter is one of many local faith leader who will take part in a Soul Shop this Saturday. It's an event aimed at giving community leaders the tools they need to help.

"And so we want to be able to help the people right in the church how to deal with people who are even suicidal with a level of compassion," said Pastor Carter.

The Soul Shop takes place this Saturday, September 24, from a 9-5 at Ephesus, 80 Durham Ave, Buffalo. There will be breakfast and lunch provided, to register click here.

Help is always available if you are struggling with a mental health issue. You can call crisis services in Erie county at 834-3131 -- or in Niagara county at 285-3515. You can also call the national hotline at 988.