Professor investigates stigma behind African-American mental health

Rearcher and author is focusing her attention on suicide and mental health of African-American college students.

Kamesha Spates, assistant professor of sociology, said she began researching this topic because of the significant stigma regarding suicide and mental health in the African-American community.

Spates said suicide is the third-leading cause of death among African-American college students, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This topic remains understudied for two main reasons, Spates added. First, approximately 90 percent of all suicides are committed by whites.

Secondly, until recently, suicide statistics for African American’s were difficult to assess because of the way the rates were classified.

For some time, suicide statistics were collected and classified into two racial categories: “white” and “non-white.” Spates said this gave researchers the illusion African American’s were immune to this social issue.

Spates also said that the lack of attention to this issue has made its way into the African-American community. As such, many African Americans see suicide and mental illness as insignificant.

Spates said African Americans often feel they have to fight perceptions of being strong — stemming from pervasive racial stereotypes.

Chayne Jordan, sophomore psychology major, said mental health isn’t discussed enough in the black community.

“I think that we are taught to think of mental health as a back thought because speaking of mental health might make us look weak or venerable,” Jordan said. “People might think that when speaking of mental health, we are being dramatic.”

Samantha Karam and India Said are diversity reporters, contact them at [email protected] and [email protected].