Opinion: Springfield needs to be better informed to ensure Black and biracial men feel seen and loved


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the second leading cause of death for young black men ages 15 to 24. Coincidentally, this same age group for young black men is among the demographics associated with the increase in gun violence in Springfield.

Is there a connection?

I read an article based on a report from the University of Georgia (UGA) Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, which indicated that childhood adversity and racism are the leading causes of suicide.

These are the same topics that mixed-race youth in Springfield — especially Black and biracial men — have recently shared with community members and leaders. It concerns me because these types of topics are difficult to deal with in Springfield. Statistically, this may not be a current problem for Springfield. However, the article made me think about how the Springfield community can be better informed in providing resources and services to a community with a city and school district of growing racial diversity.

In 2023, the U.S. Census reported that Springfield’s self-identified white population was 86.4 percent, two or more races 5.5 percent, black or African American 4.3 percent, and Asian 1.9 percent, American Indian and Alaskan -indigenous 0.4 percent, native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islanders. 0.2 percent. According to SPS, 75.3 percent of students identify themselves as white, 7.9 percent black, 6.8 percent Hispanic, 3.2 percent Asian and less than 1 percent Native American or Pacific Islander.

Parallels in Springfield conversations

In reviewing the research, I saw parallels with some of the conversations taking place in Springfield with black and biracial young men. The article reported that growing up in environments with few resources and where racial discrimination was experienced at a young age made it difficult for young adults to form healthy, trusting relationships. There were strong feelings of distrust and caution towards social relationships. The researchers think this can lead to feelings of isolation, which in turn can lead to thoughts of death and suicide.

These are similar thoughts we’ve heard from young people of different races about why they don’t participate in certain activities. They tend to form bonds with individuals and groups that accept them for who they are and give them a sense of belonging, even if it is not the best group.

Michael Curtis, co-author of the UGA report and a graduate of the College of Family and Consumer Sciences’ Department of Human Development and Family Science, said: “I think we often don’t look at where the differences lie and who the individuals are. be the most. who are at risk are when we talk about suicidal thoughts. We just know it’s bad, and especially among young black men. Historically, research has not invested much time and effort in examining the unique cultural contexts that place certain men at greater risk for suicidal ideation than other men.”

Adverse childhood experiences at the grassroots

I found the following information from the article intriguing as ways to determine what can be done to address the problems by understanding the cause, effect and impact:

“The research reflected how childhood trauma and racism can take a heavy toll on the mental health of young black men. The researchers followed more than 500 African-American men from their late teens to early twenties in rural Georgia. The researchers found that these childhood experiences of trauma, hardship and racism took a heavy toll on the mental health of the study participants as they entered adulthood.”

“The quality of our relationships is what keeps people going,” said Steven Kogan, lead author of the study and professor in the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences. “For people with suicidal thoughts, there is the feeling that no one knows me, that no one cares about me, that there is no one for me, that I am alone.”

“We found that when Black men were exposed to childhood adversity, they were able to develop an internal understanding of the world as a place where they were devalued, where they could not trust others, and where they could not engage the community in a supportive way. ,” says Curtis. who practices as a licensed marriage and family therapist.

“More research is needed, but one finding is unequivocal: loving yourself as a Black person is fundamental,” Kogan said. “Teaching children and youth to be proud of being Black counteracts the possibility of internalizing negative messages about Blackness that pervade American society.”

Here in Springfield, we have an opportunity to look at current practices, policies and systems that can help develop greater awareness of what can lead to even thoughts of gun suicide and gun violence.

National best practices have shown positive results when we focus on key areas in our community with community-driven solutions. We need youth input in developing programming and we need to work more closely with community members they trust to make a positive difference. If we help one population group, we help all population groups.

Francine Pratt

Francine Micheline Pratt is director of Prosper Springfield, a collective community impact model charged with overseeing community goals to reduce the poverty rate and increase postsecondary education levels. She is president of Pratt Consultants LLC, which focuses on community engagement, business infrastructure development, conflict resolution, strategic planning and diversity training. She is also a creative partner for the Queen City Soul Kitchen restaurant. Email: [email protected] More by Francine Pratt