“Young African-American men suffer from much higher rates of depression because of trauma compared to their white counterparts, and many Black men don’t recognize that they have been traumatized,” says Dr. Waldo E. Johnson Jr.
This comment was made by Dr. Johnson during a panel discussion at the “Black Young Men in American: Rising Above Social and Racial Prejudice, Trauma, and Education Disparities” symposium at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration. Dr. Johnson is the author of “Social Work with African American Males: Health, Mental Health and Social Policy.
At the symposium Dr. Johnson discussed how many experiences even that within education are traumatic for young Black men and lead to an increase in depression compared to the overall life experiences of young Black men’s white counterparts seen in statistics such as disproportionately high school suspension, high number of in-school timeouts, and assignments to special education classes among young Black men. Dr. Johnson even cites recent incidents such as Travyon Martin and Jordan Davis as examples that young Black men are under intense surveillance and rarely feel safe in their surroundings. “Black boys are more depressed because they believe their physical safety is always being threatened.”
Although homicide is still the leading cause of death among young Black men, the suicide rate among Black men 20-24 years old has risen dramatically resulting in suicide now being the third leading cause of death among young Black men. Compounding this, young Black men are cited as very much under-utilizing mental health services due to the intense negative stigmas associated with mental health and mental illness within the Black community.
The symposium worked to bring together professionals from many backgrounds including academics, journalism, social work, and individual involved in Black churches to work to begin to create an environment in which Black males feel safe and supported to open up and discuss issues affecting them to ultimately decrease many of the negative statistics related to young Black men.