'There's no need to be shy': Houston UTHealth doctor addresses stigma around mental health

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Thursday, December 15, 2022
CDC reports more men than women committing suicide: UTHealth Houston doctor addresses stigma around mental health
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Doctor talks mental health stigma over higher suicide rate with men

Recent data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the suicide rate among Black and Hispanic communities is on the rise in the United States.

In 2020, the suicide rate among non-Hispanic whites was 16.9 suicides-per-100,000 people, while non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic individuals had rates of 7.8 and 7.5 suicides-per-100,000 people, respectively.

In light of the announcement that "The Ellen Show" DJ Stephen "tWitch" Boss took his own life, ABC News Live spoke with ABC News Medical Contributor Dr. Darien Sutton about why suicide rates are trending upward in the Black community.

"There are some factors that are shared within the community of color," Sutton said. "For example, the lack of access to care, the social stresses of systemic racism, the lack of cultural competence and diversity and confidence within health care, and most importantly, the stigma that comes with the diagnosis."

Dr. Lokesh Shahani is the chief medical officer for the UTHealth Behavioral Sciences Campus, and ABC13 asked him what he'd tell any patient about the stigma surrounding treatment for mental-health conditions.

"What we tell people is, 'Hey, the brain is just another part of your body,'" Shahani said. "If you were having chest pain, you would go to the ER to get yourself treated. If you are having suicidal thoughts, it's a brain problem. There's no need to be shy."

The CDC also reported that men were four times more likely to take their own life than women in 2020, a figure Shahani attributes to women being more willing to seek treatment for the symptoms that lead to suicide.

Shahani advises calling 988 if you're having suicidal thoughts of any kind, which is the number to the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. That number will connect you to free and confidential support if you're in distress.

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