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Mental health experts monitoring disturbing trend of suicides among African American men

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BATON ROUGE- Medical professionals and mental health experts have been monitoring a disturbing trend over the years involving African American male suicides.

Concerning trends were raised by Dr. Beau Clark in recent years after noticing the numbers were increasing. In the early '90s, East Baton Rouge Parish suicides among African American males were rare. In November of this year, there were four.

"In our culture, we have been told to suck it up. You don't deal with your emotions and we have to change that," said Tonja Myles, a peer support specialist.

Myles said she knows all too well what it's like to feel worthless. She's tried to commit suicide two times, once when she was 12 and again when she was 18. She finally got the help she needed and now uses her experiences to help those fighting their demons.

"We want African American men to know there is hope," Myles said. "People got laid off, anxiety and depression are high and they see images that they could be them. That plays on someone's psyche."

The problem with mental health in East Baton Rouge Parish is not a new one. Voters in the parish approved a tax to fund a bridge center which will hold its open house next week. The center is supposed to act as a bridge for mental health patients instead of going to jail. It will help get them the help they need.

Also next week, Myles said a number of experts will be brought together on the local and national levels to discuss these trends.

"You have nothing to be ashamed of," Myles said. "If you are suffering from depression and anxiety you have nothing to be ashamed of."

If you need help, you can call the Baton Rouge Crisis Intervention Center at 225-924-1431 or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255.

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