Keep Fighting Pt. 2: Teens talk depression, bullying - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

Keep Fighting Pt. 2: Teens talk depression, bullying


According to a new JAMA study, the number of suicides among African American children have doubled in the last two decades. Researches base these findings off the number of suicides in children from 5-11 years old between 1993 and 2012. The rate of young African American boys rose while the rate for young Caucasian boys declined. What is behind the incline of suicides in the black community and are we doing enough to stop it? 

Recently, KSLA News 12's Charisse Gibson reached out to a group of young black students who grew up in predominantly black neighborhoods and schools. Each of the teens have faced some sort of adversity, but it seems the core issue for the majority was bullying. "I've been bullied and I tried to kill myself," says Jerjuanika James. It would be the first time she openly confessed that she not only contemplated suicide but attempted it. 

One by one, the teens tell their story of bullying and pressure to conform to society. "I think there is a lot of peer pressure going on," says Alex Washington, an 18-year-old student. For two of the younger students, the problem was skin deep. Both girls said they were victims of bullying due to their light skin complexion. "You're a mulatto, you're a mutt," says Kayla Sanders. "Oh, you want to be a white girl. They would talk about my skin color," says Verdayjah Washington. 

In the digital age of social media, with apps like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat, there are plenty of ways to maintain contact with each other.

It's also become an effective way for mental torture to continue even when not in the presence of an enemy. "Instagram, well all social media, helps to make it worse," says Verdayjah.

With social media, bullying and depression some teens are often left without an outlet. This group expressed their disdain for sharing their hurt or anger with adults due to their lack of attention or care. So they're left to let their problems fester in their minds, often leading to depression which can in turn lead to some of the most tragic situations. 

Dr. Kathy Jackson, a professional counselor that specializes in marriage and family therapy, works with children who suffer from anxiety and depression. She says the findings in the new JAMA study on the rising rate of suicides among black youth comes to no surprise. 

"It's almost like a sign of weakness if you seek help in the black community. We've always been taught that you can handle your problems, you're strong enough or pray about it. So a lot of these kinds won't seek help," says Dr. Jackson. 

There are also several key factors to look at, including socioeconomic status, education on suicide and bullying, and exposure to volatile situations. 

"There is so much more that the kids have to deal with these days then I had in my age group. We are more open to having violence in the home, in the community. Black boys have a tendency to be taught to hold stuff in. I don't think we are educating our boys enough or our girls really to seek help. It's ok for you to go out and say hey, something is going on with me," says Dr. Jackson. 

So the question remains, how do we fix the problem and put a stop to a deadly trend? 

"We have to educate society about mental health," says Dr. Jackson. "I think if we take time to sit down with these kids, allow them to say what's going on with them and give them an open platform, that can bridge the gap right there." 

Or simply put by the students, just listen. A simple answer to a complex issue. 

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