Listen to this article here
Regina King marked her son Ian Alexander Jr.’s “worthday” — the day he would have celebrated his 27th birthday — in an emotional tribute on Thursday.
“January 19th is Ian’s Worthday. As we still process his physical absence, we celebrate his presence,” King, 52, wrote in the caption of an Instagram video, her first post since Alexander died by suicide in January 2022. “We are all in different places on the planet…so is Ian. His spirit is the thread that connects us.”
ABC News reports Alexander was the only son of Regina King and her ex-husband Ian Alexander.
At the time of her son’s death, King released the following statement: “Our family is devastated at the deepest level by the loss of Ian. He is such a bright light who cared so deeply about the happiness of others. Our family asks for respectful consideration during this private time. Thank you.”
Black Hollywood sends support to Regina King
Among the many supportive commenters, revolutionary filmmaker Ava DuVernay quoted Roisin Kelly, “I’ll choose for myself next time who I’ll reach out and take as mine, in the way I might stand at a fruit stall having decided to ignore the apples, the mangoes and the kiwis. But hold my hands above a pile of oranges as if to warm my skin before a fire.”
Acclaimed actress Niecy Nash followed up, saying, “My friend. I think of you often. I always pray for your strength & peace in the midst of loss and grief. I love you.”
Oscar and Emmy-nominated actress Taraji P. Henson shared her love, saying, “We still celebrate your forever presence Ian. I love you forever.”
Suffering in silence leads to Black suicide
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), while suicide rates decreased by 3 percent in 2020, rates among the Black community increased instead.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released the disturbing data that “[i]n 2019, suicide was the second leading cause of death for Blacks or African Americans, ages 15 to 24.”
Even worse, a 2021 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry found that Black girls experienced an increase in suicide rates averaging 6.6 percent ever year, which is more than twice that of Black boys.
Multiple factors must be considered when discussing Black suicide
Between traditional in-person therapy and a number of online mental health services at our fingertips, it is often the lack of willingness to engage in therapy which keeps many Black people from the necessary help.
Patrice Harris, MD, Everyday Health‘s chief health and medical editor and the first Black woman to be elected president of the American Medical Association, discusses five factors likely contributing to this increase, and what could help change this trajectory.
According to Dr. Harris, social media ramps up pressure to fit in, mental health stigma impedes Black people from seeking help, treatment is often less accessible to Black people, Black people continually face racism and discrimination, and lastly, many Black people are frequently exposed to violence.
The increasing number of suicides among Black people is likely multifactorial, and additional research is needed to pinpoint exactly what’s driving these rates, says Harris.
The research we do have indicates that harmful effects connected to social media use, exposure to racism, mental health stigma, and exposure to violence and accumulative trauma have all likely played a role.
Help is just a call or click away
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation.
1-800-662-HELP (4357) (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service), or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders.
This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.
Read more about the HELP4U text messaging service.