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Don Cornelius' Death Raises Concern About Suicide

Talib I.Karim | 2/9/2012, 12:51 p.m.

On the first day of Black History Month, the nation was rocked by news that Don Cornelius, music industry pioneer and founder of the long-running Soul Train television show was dead, apparently the victim of self-inflicted gun hot wound. At age 75, the Associated Press reported, Cornelius had "suffered from health problems, a difficult divorce, and had pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor spousal battery charge in 2009."

Although the exact reason or reasons prompting Cornelius' death were not immediately known, this did not prevent questions and comments about depression from being discussed in the African-American communities around the country.

It is a known fact that African-Americans are no strangers to depression. In fact, the black population suffers disproportionally from stress which can lead to depression, according to a study on perceived racism's impact upon African-Americans published by the American Psychological Association (APA).

"While one suicide is too many," in 2009, the last year for which data is available, "the District had 52 completed suicides," noted Steve Baron, the director of D.C.'s Department of Mental Health (DMH). That year, Baron added, deaths by suicide, were more prevalent in white males and in persons between the ages of 50-59 years.

Under Baron's leadership, the DMH has supported several new initiatives to address suicide prevention, including a national 24-hour Access Helpline (800-273-TALK). He said his agency has focused on efforts to help youth with mental illnesses, including youth offenders and youth in foster care.

"DMH has established a D.C. Youth Suicide Prevention Coalition," Baron said, "that includes the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and the majority of the District youth serving government agencies."

Baron urges those facing stresses they can't handle or those concerned about the mental health of a loved one or neighbor to call his agency's 24-hour hotline at 1-888-793-4357.


By Talib I. Karim

WI Staff Writer

On the first day of Black History Month, the nation was rocked by news that Don Cornelius, music industry pioneer and founder of the long-running Soul Train television show was dead, apparently the victim of self-inflicted gun hot wound. At age 75, the Associated Press reported, Cornelius had "suffered from health problems, a difficult divorce, and had pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor spousal battery charge in 2009."

Although the exact reason or reasons prompting Cornelius' death were not immediately known, this did not prevent questions and comments about depression from being discussed in the African-American communities around the country.

It is a known fact that African-Americans are no strangers to depression. In fact, the black population suffers disproportionally from stress which can lead to depression, according to a study on perceived racism's impact upon African-Americans published by the American Psychological Association (APA).

"While one suicide is too many," in 2009, the last year for which data is available, "the District had 52 completed suicides," noted Steve Baron, the director of D.C.'s Department of Mental Health (DMH). That year, Baron added, deaths by suicide, were more prevalent in white males and in persons between the ages of 50-59 years.

Under Baron's leadership, the DMH has supported several new initiatives to address suicide prevention, including a national 24-hour Access Helpline (800-273-TALK). He said his agency has focused on efforts to help youth with mental illnesses, including youth offenders and youth in foster care.

"DMH has established a D.C. Youth Suicide Prevention Coalition," Baron said, "that includes the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and the majority of the District youth serving government agencies."

Baron urges those facing stresses they can't handle or those concerned about the mental health of a loved one or neighbor to call his agency's 24-hour hotline at 1-888-793-4357.