COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Some common symptoms of a child struggling with their mental health may not be easy to see, and are often overlooked or mislabeled by parents and society. 

Elijah was no exception. After he attempted suicide, his mother, Neshay, says she replayed every single moment leading up to it in her head. 

Going into 7th grade, he started acting out. He was getting into trouble at school and became more aggressive. 

“Kinda felt like I always needed to do something to make myself feel better. I was slowly moving my way to a bigger blow up,” says Elijah. “These small little actions would just build more into that. I would just get upset if someone would just look wrong or say something to me because I felt in my mind that was a really big deal because I was so emotional.”  

Caroline Bennett, a Black Youth Advocate, has seen it all too often. 

“We label people as lazy. We label young people as unmotivated we label young people as everything that they are not. Instead of digging in to really see what is going on we assume so then students become combative.” 

In Elijah’s case, his mother was sick, he says he was being bullied and didn’t fit in. Bennett says, for a lot of young Black males, it’s the weight of carrying the entire family, it’s the weight of carrying the entire family, and the label of being “the man of the house” when they are still kids. 

“It’s like a lose-lose when it comes to the kids. They are forced to grow up, take care of themselves, take care of their siblings, clean the house, clean this, go get a job,” says Bennett. 

And it’s leading to a major increase in suicide.  

According to data provided by the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation, Black males, between the ages of 5 and 11 are more likely to die by suicide compared to their white peers. 

The suicide death rate among Black youth has been increasing faster than other racial/ethnic groups, and the pandemic is making things worse. In the past year, the number of suicides has tripled among Black youth. 

It’s why the “Life is Better With You Here” campaign is pushing young people to seek help, beyond the people they know. 

“I know a lot of kids out here, they don’t really talk to adults because they don’t feel like they understand them, and they don’t feel like they had the same experiences at all,” says Elijah. 

But according to Bennett, that’s far from the case. In fact, she says many Black parents have experienced trauma and depression, but stay quiet because that’s what they were taught to do. Creating a toxic cycle. 

But there is hope, especially with brave kids like Elijah. 

“It’s not the end of the world. Taking your own life isn’t the best option because there is going to be a lot more opportunities and there is going to be a lot more people in your life that’s going to make it a lot better. And the people in your life right now may not be making it better but there are some people that care for you even if they can’t show it. Learning to love yourself in everything that you do that will help to make it a lot better.” 

Elijah’s mother, Neshay, says she wants parents to know it’s easy to think you know best, but she found it’s critical to be open to exploring different ways, and to be open to feedback from your kids, so they feel open with you about what’s happening. 

If you know a child showing signs of mental illness and fear they are at risk of suicide, you can find information on how to reach out to them here: Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation