Domenique Harrison, also known as The Racial Equity Therapist, is a race and relationship therapist, an identity equity strategist and owner of The Racial Equity Marriage and Family Therapy Corporation. Photo credit: Leah Huebner, Huebner Headshots

Domenique Harrison,  a licensed therapist, small business founder and Racial Equity strategist/consultant, owns The Racial Equity Marriage and Family Therapy Corporation. “The Racial Equity Therapist” has been a therapist since 2018. Harrison has also been doing racial equity work for the last 10 years. Harrison provided insight about suicide and the alarming uptick in children who lose their lives to suicide. She stated that young children, including those who identify as queer, non-binary, trans, disabled, Black indigenous people of color and immigrants are more at risk of dying by suicide.

Q: Why do you think the number of suicides among youth has increased?

A: With the increase of public and political dissent for gender-affirming care; the denouncement of racialized histories; the impact of forced social isolation, separation; job insecurity; financial instability; grief during the pandemic; and the physical and mental health ramifications for survivors; vicarious experiences of school shootings; and the challenging effect of climate change; suicides have risen and is now the second leading cause of death in individuals aged 10-14 and 20-34. 

Q: Has the number of people in general who died by suicide increased over recent years?

A: According to the CDC, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the World Health Organization, the number of people who have died by suicide has increased steadily over the last few years. From 2001-2018, the increase was about 35%; it reduced a bit between 2018-2020 but has been on the rise again from 2020 and beyond.

Q: What are some signs or symptoms of someone exhibiting suicidal thoughts that may lead to a crisis situation?

A: A few signs of someone exhibiting suicidal thoughts that may lead to a crisis include someone who conveys little care about their future; often minimizes/puts themselves down or relates to others they are not deserving of life; extends thoughtful goodbyes to significant people in their life; [and someone who] has an active suicide plan that includes time, means, motive, and method; and [someone who] often talks about feeling suicidal. Some statements to be considerate of include: “I don’t deserve to live, or there is no point in me living,” “I wish I could just go to bed and not wake up anymore,” “You have always been my best friend, and I will miss you,” “I have thought about how I would kill myself,” “Life has been so hopeless, I’ve been feeling like ending it all.”

Additional symptoms and behaviors can coincide with mood disorders and depression. For example, an increase in alcohol or drug use, noticeable and dramatic behavior change, giving and throwing away, or donating valuable items, losing interest in activities someone once loved, writing a will or letter of what happens when the person dies, or planning their death, eating and sleeping more or less than usual and feeling sick, tired, or achy more than usual.

Q: What do you recommend that a parent should consider doing in a crisis?

A: When your child is in a crisis, parents and guardians should stay close to them, ask them direct and specific questions about how they are feeling, and provide a safe/brave space to share their fears, needs, questions and experiences. Parents who offer their children options on how they can offer them support can be both empowering and cherishing to children. Parents should not shy away from talking about suicide and suicidal thoughts. Instead, they should start “the conversations” to lead their children to explore resources— whether therapy, support groups, a crisis text line, community and activity groups, or more. 

Parents should also do their research, discuss with other parents in their community what their children are facing; engage the people who know and interact with their children in different spaces; self-reflect on their own physical and mental health experiences; identify and use their coping skills; and determine whether they are modeling the process of and coping with their mental health to their children supportively. Lastly, parents should remain patient, non-judgmental, curious and compassionate while extending gratitude to their children for sharing their crisis experiences.

Q: What are a few must-have resources?

A: A few must-have resources specific to Maryland include: The Life Crisis Center; The Grassroot Crisis Intervention Center; Community Crisis Services; the Baltimore County Crisis Response System; and the Baltimore Crisis Response.

Other essential National Organizations/Resources include: Trans LifeLine; The Trevor Project; Black Line; 988; NAMI; the CDC; The National Suicide Prevention Helpline; The National Institute of Mental Health; and The WHO.

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