Soul Shop for Black Churches brings suicide prevention training to Lake Charles

Published: May. 12, 2023 at 9:51 PM CDT
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Lake Charles, La. (KPLC) - Suicide rates have significantly increased within the last five years in Black communities.

According to the CDC, there’s been a 36.6 percent increase in suicide among Black youth ages 10 to 24. Soul Shop for Black Churches is a faith-based organization working to change things around.

The organization held its first suicide prevention workshop in Lake Charles today at the SEED Center. Established in 1999, the workshops have been presented all over the world.

“The faith community has a very strong presence in Black communities, and considering the increases in suicide rates were seeing in Black men, this is an opportunity to step up,” said Soul Shop trainer Wykisha McKinney.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Louisiana chapter joined forces with Soul Shop to bring the event to Lake Charles.

”It’s very unusual for a Black woman to die by suicide, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen,” said Dr. Kevin Yaudes, a psychology professor at McNeese State University. “And if you’re looking at Black males 15 to 24, the national suicide rate is much higher than the average rate, so if were going to take a look at or address suicide prevention in Southwest Louisiana then we’re going to have to address all aspects.”

McKinney can relate after losing her older brother.

“He was funny, he was very social, he was a handsome dude, and he knew it, and he carried himself as such. One of his favorite running things to do was when people would ask him Johnny how you doing, he would say cute, and that was just kind of his demeanor,” she said.

Johnny worked as a case manager for young Black males who were newly diagnosed with HIV. No one thought what he was helping others cope with would be the same thing to eventually take a toll on him.

“In 2000, Johnny was diagnosed with AIDS, and I think that was a part of the major switch. Of course, his health deteriorated quickly because started to develop major health issues. He didn’t find out about his HIV status until he was sick and diagnosed with AIDS.”

McKinney said the signs of suicide were there, and knowing what she knows now, things might have turned out a little different. She said that is why events like this are necessary.

“Just know that there’s help available. It’s Google, it’s a phone call to 988, or reaching out to local churches or counseling centers,” she said.