The Literati: A Crisis in the Mental Health of Black America
by W. Eric Croomes
Suicide has always been a hush-hush topic in the African-American community; nothing silences a conversation more suddenly than talk of someone who has taken their own life, whether a family member or friend. With the publication of Lay My Burden Down, Suicide and the Mental Health Crisis among African-Americans in 2000, the veil of secrecy and inherited shame was lifted and the subject was put out in the public arena. Its authors, Dr. Alvin F. Poussaint and Amy Alexander, offer a convincing, cogent and relentlessly grievous account as to the myriad reasons so many African-Americans suffer from depression and other mental health issues and how those reasons lay the groundwork for the ultimate act of self-aggression: suicide. In particular, and certainly disturbing, is the suicidal trend of black males in America, which tripled between the 1980’s and the end of the twentieth-century, according to the authors. The common element of this trend is the loss of hope, a virtue that historically underpinned the ability of blacks to overcome the legacy of discrimination, segregation and unequal justice. Says Poussaint and Alexander: “…the realities of modern life have begun to undermine the historic adoptions, the coping strategies that are part of the African-American culture.” Lay My Burden Down requires the immediate and consistent attention from anybody who senses the urgency of self-destructive behaviors in a family member or friend and is a must-read for policy chieftains, church leaders and grass-roots organizations.