Giving Compass' Take:
- Rebecca Ruiz explains how systemic racism hinders effective suicide prevention for people of color.
- Ruiz highlights efforts to improve systems for suicide prevention. How can you best support these shifts?
- Read about the need to invest in Black teens' mental health.
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Since George Floyd's tragic death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer in May, entire fields have confronted — willingly or not — their track record on diversity, equity, and inclusion. That reckoning has come to Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and Hollywood, and shaken industries like professional football and basketball, journalism, and classical opera.
Something similar is happening in suicide prevention, a field whose noble cause draws academics, therapists, researchers, and public health experts determined to save lives. Those good intentions, however, can also operate like a shield against any criticism. Confronting failure is painful given what's at stake.
That's why conversations about race and racism, until now, have been muted. But following Floyd's death, things shifted. Vibrant Emotional Health, which operates the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, created tip sheets to help counselors talk about racism and civil unrest, which they distributed to the 170 crisis centers in its network. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the largest private funder of research in the field, moved to make diversity a new priority for grants.
In June, the board of Crisis Text Line fired its founder and CEO when staff staged a virtual walkout to protest discrimination and abuse they experienced in her presence. Last month, the American Association of Suicidology (AAS), a nonprofit organization whose membership includes researchers, academics, public health professionals, and suicide attempt survivors, issued a statement pledging to become anti-racist.
The field finally seems willing to consider equity and inclusion as cornerstones of its work. DeQuincy Lezine, who is the sole Black board member of the AAS, is cautiously optimistic about these recent developments. For more than two decades, Lezine has thought deeply about how to stop people from taking their own lives. He is a psychologist, president and CEO of the mental health consulting firm Prevention Communities, and a suicide attempt survivor.
Lezine knows, intimately and clinically, that when a suicidal person decides to keep living, they've found hope. Lezine also understands something else about suicide prevention that may still be less obvious to his peers in the field: The support suicidal people receive can vary dramatically depending on their race and ethnicity.
When, for example, a suicide hotline contacts emergency services because a caller wants to die and has the means and plans to do so, a white person might be greeted by concerned police officers. A Black person, however, might be seen as threatening and approached with a firearm.
Read the full article about suicide prevention by Rebecca Ruiz at Mashable.