Most times when we find out that researchers are going to be studying some facet of black women we cringe. Especially since as of late those studies have revolved around two things—why are we all overweight and why are we all single. Yeah, we’re over it. But a new Veterans Affairs study is actually looking to examine something that black women are doing right in order to help other ethnic groups who aren’t faring so well. Amazing, right?
That being said, the good news this week is: We support one another more than any other culture!
How do we know this? Well, the government has been examining the fact that suicides among U.S. military members have spiked this year to an average of one suicide a day which is an 18 percent increase over last year and the highest rate so far during a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although the government doesn’t break down military suicides according to race, when you look at the general population, African American women have the lowest suicide rate of any group, while white men have the highest. Seems pretty odd for a double minority to be handling life better than the one’s born into the highest rank of society, right? The Department of Veterans Affairs thinks so too which is why they’re looking into how black women’s network of social support can be applied to military personnel and curb these deaths.
Jan Kemp, the Veterans Affairs mental health director for suicide prevention, told Government Executive magazine:
“The sense of community among [black women] and the … built-in support that they get from each other is something we’re paying a lot of attention to, and trying to find ways to emulate. I think often that veterans and men don’t have that same sort of personal support, and we have to build that for them.”
The Grio points out that recent studies like those from the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation have brought our supportive nature to the forefront, showing how we rely on one another and our own sense of self-worth to still feel beautiful and powerful and loved despite expanded waist bands, low net worth, and even social stereotypes and racism, and we encourage other black women to feel the same.
Sophia Nelson, author of Black Woman Redefined, told the Grio there are two main reasons why black women have a lower suicide rate and hold up so well against the odds:
“Black women are considered the most loyal faith-based group in the country,” she said. “It’s really black women’s coping mechanism. Black people go to church at the highest rate in this country, black women being the largest portion of that group.”
The other reason is steeped more in our history in America.
“The strength of black women harkens back to slavery, but that strength is not just physical — it’s also spiritual. It has evolved,” she added. “We have been through slavery, Jim Crow, and suffered the social injuries of being both black and female. I would argue that black women, because of the horror we have endured — that puts you in a very unique situation. Their strength and their spirituality is what saved them — because of their history. It’s kind of like being a marathon runner. You build up your endurance over time.”
As much as we don’t like to have to have to carry the image of the strong black woman on our backs all the time, this research shows it’s something that’s already in most of us anyway. Kudos to us for having each other’s backs and our own!
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