LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says black male teen suicide has seen a dramatic increase over recent decades. Jackson Snelling lends his voice to raise awareness to the issue.
His hit song ”If I Only Knew” comes from a very personal place he's not afraid to talk about.
"The song came to mind whenever I lost my friend, he was only 14 years old to suicide. He had a lot he had a good amount of friends, a good family, he was good at sports and music. He was good at everything and you would have never thought him of all people would have even contemplated something like that. So I wrote the song "If I only knew because it was kind like how I felt like, if i only knew maybe I could have done something to save him," Snelling said.
He's also open about his own struggles with depression due to loss loved ones
"I was helping everybody else grieve and I wasn't grieving so it was really unhealthy and I just had a bunch of thoughts about of suicide and like would it be better if i wasn't here, like I just want it all to stop like the pain," Snelling said.
Dr. Steven Kniffley at Spalding University says the numbers are startling surrounding black male teens committing suicide and it's also the third leading cause of death among the demographic.
"There's been a 223 percent increase since the 90's in terms of the amount of black teens black male teens that are committing suicide," Dr. Kniffley said.
And points to two key issues that often lead to young men feeling there is only one way out.
"Greater instances of racism and discrimination that those black male teens are facing and then also the stigma associated with seeking out mental health services," Dr. Kniffley said.
But there is hope.
Dr. Kniffley says suicide is 100 percent preventable and asking the tough questions is a good place for parents to start.
"You are actually helping your child more by being direct when it comes to asking questions around suicide then you are by being indirect and being ambiguous in your questioning. So if you are concerned about your child ask those questions ask them directly, "Are you thinking about killing yourself right now,?" "Are you thinking about hurting yourself right now,?" And by doing that it will open up a conversation to were you both can support the child and then get them the help they need," Dr. Kniffley said.
As for Jackson he's found his footing and wants his peers to always remember this.
"Suicide is a permanent answer to a temporary problem, everything gets better no matter how hard it seems at the time or how difficult it may be for you to get through it gets better in the end and you'll never see that if you commit suicide. That's what's so tragic about it is whenever you find out the reason why they did it you kind of sit back you are like wow like that could have been prevented or it could have gotten better because it wasn't that big of a deal but to them it was world breaking," jakcson said.
To find affordable therapy for young black male teens the Center for behavioral health at Spalding university is always taking in new clients and they can be reached at 502 792 7011.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can also be reached at 1-800-273-talk.