The suicide death of popular entertainer Stephen “tWitch” Boss, 40, on Dec. 13 has sparked a conversation about the increase in suicides by Black men in the U.S. Black America and experts alike have been speaking out about the issue.
Boss, the former DJ and an executive producer on “The Ellen Show,” died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at a hotel not far from the California home he shared with his wife and kids.
Suicide among Black males has been increasing. While overall statistics point to Black people typically having among the lowest suicide rates, data from 2021 indicated that the covid-19 pandemic had increased those numbers.
Suicide Prevention Resource Center data revealed that from 2010 to 2019, Black people in the U.S. had a suicide rate of 7.4 percent per 100,000 people. That is compared to the overall rate of 13.2 percent per 100,000 people for everybody in the U.S.
Black males, however, have more than double the suicide rate of Black females.
Overall, “the suicide death rate for men is more than four times the rate for women in Black populations” and the “suicide death rate for the overall U.S. population is approximately double that of Black populations for both males and females,” the Suicide Prevention Resource Center found.
Over the last two decades a number of high-profile Black men, who to the outside world seemed to be riding high in life and their careers, have committed suicide.
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At the beginning of the year, in January, Mayor Kevin Ward of Hyattsville, Maryland, died by suicide. The 44-year-old was the second Black and first openly gay mayor of Hyattsville.
MF Doom’s death shocked the hip-hop world. His death was announced on Dec. 31, 2020, by his wife, Jasmine Dumile. No cause of death was ever given, but it believed that it was due to suicide. He was 49.
On June 19, 2019, popular YouTuber Desmond Daniel Amofah, better known as Etika, made a video to apologize for what he had planned–to commit suicide. He was 29.
Actor Lee Thompson Young, 29, died Aug, 19, 2013, from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.. Young had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Hip-hop artists Capital Steez, born Everald Dewar Jr., was a founder of the Brooklyn-based hip-hop collective Pro Era, along with childhood friend Joey Bada$$ jumped to his death on Dec. 23, 2012, from the rooftop of the Cinematic Music Group headquarters in Manhattan. Just prior, the 19-year-old posted a tweet saying, “The end.”
Record executive Chris Lighty, 44, was the co-founder of Violator, a record label, management and marketing company, which represented hip hop and R&B artists such as Busta Rhymes, A Tribe Called Quest, Nas, Ja Rule, Mobb Deep, Missy Elliott, LL Cool J, Noreaga, Uncle Murda, 50 Cent, Mariah Carey and Sean “Diddy” Combs. On Aug. 30, 2012, Lighty was found dead on the patio of his South Riverdale, Bronx apartment from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Lighty’s family and many celebrity figures, such as hip-hop artists 50 Cent and rapper Papoose questioned Lighty’s death as suicide.
National Football League player Jovan Belcher, 25, killed his girlfriend before shooting himself on Dec. 1, 2012.
Entertainment veteran Don Cornelius, host of “Soul Train,” fatally shot himself on Feb. 1, 2012. He was 75.
Shakir Stewart, the Senior Vice President of Island Def Jam Music Group and the Executive Vice President of Def Jam, died on Nov. 1, 2008, in the Atlanta from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was 34.
Many spoke out on Twitter about the rise in suicides among Black men.
“My 1st yr of residency I lost a co-intern to suicide. I’d met Baruch during our gen med rotation. He was kind & quiet. He’d shown us pictures of his wife, & his little ones…twins. Hearing of his passing left me shocked & confused. My heart ached, wondering what did we miss…” tweeted Dr. Ebony Jade Hilton, an anesthesiologist and MSNBC medical contributor.
Political analyst Boyce Watkins tweeted, “My therapist wife happens to be a suicide expert. She has some deep things to say about #djtwitch. #Blackmen need to find ways to get the support we deserve. Do it before it’s too late.” He posted video of a conversation he had on his YouTube channel with his wife, Dr Alicia Watkins, about Black men and suicide.
In a response to a post by sports commentator Herb Lawrence who posted a video of former pro basketball player Michael Beasley talking about Black men and mental health, tech entrepreneur Yonathan Seleshi tweeted, “These are needed conversations. As black men we need to be willing to speak openly about mental health and realize it’s normal and ok to talk about what we’re going through and not feel belittled. I respect everyone who speaks openly about what they’re going through.’
Many noted that Black men often get push back and are met with criticism when they appear “vulnerable.”
“I hate how these blog sites / men and women lead podcasts consistently aim to tear down black men , air they dirty laundry for views / click bait .. then when one black man commits suicide it’s “ we love our black man” “protect our black men” … y’all are a fucking joke,” tweeted JM.
Twitter user Booty Pebbled agreed that Black men aren’t given a safe space to discuss mental health. “There’s definitely ways to start a discussion about Black men committing suicide without being condescending. Y’all want men to open up and talk about their feelings but don’t offer even the smallest amount of safety for them to do so,” Booty Pebbles tweeted.
“It’s a war on black men’s mental health. Always has been. We get no love from society. We get no support from society. Black male suicide rates are the highest b/c of this right here. This is why men remain silent. These are our judges and clinicians. How are we supposed to win?” asked Kofi A.
Stephen “tWitch” Boss appears at the FOX 2022 Upfront presentation in New York on May 16, 2022. Boss, a longtime DJ and co-executive producer on the talk show “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and former contestant on the dance competition show, “So You Can Think You Can Dance” has died at the age of 40. (Photo by Christopher Smith/Invision/AP, File)