By IDA HARRIS
I don’t know much about young Nakia Venant, but when I scan her tightly woven, kanekalon braids and peer into the most perfect, almond-shaped eyes set in cocoa skin, I do know this: I see a 14-year-old baby girl who could have very well been mine. Or yours. But she is gone from here, having committed a Facebook suicide for all the world to see.
Last week, in the wee hours of a Sunday morning from a bathroom in her foster parents’ home, she broadcasted her final moments on Facebook Live: she hung herself with a scarf on camera, just down the hallway from where her foster parents were sleeping. I can only imagine their devastation when Miami police woke them to the tragic news.
By her friends’ account, Nakia was full of charisma and life. But it seems no one knew the extent of this young Black girl’s pain—a pain so searing she tried to soothe it at three o’clock in the morning, on the most popular social media platform on the planet, looking, it appears, for someone, anyone, to be aware of the gravity of whatever was weighing her down.
Nakia’s story highlights a troubling trend: a 2015 Centers for Disease Control study shows suicide among Black children between ages five and 12 doubled between 1993 and 2003. Doubled. Researchers and epidemiologists cite contributing factors of Black children’s suicide as the likely exposure to “violence and traumatic stress.” Because Black youth are not faced with any other “traditional” challenges. Umm…ok. Suffice to say, it’s not a stretch to also attribute the rise to issues dealing with race, gender, identity, self image, bullying, mental health, et al. Nonetheless, we should assume that suicidal Black children are facing off against conditions and a lack of support that make them feel like they have no way out.
As parents, we can totally get caught up in adulting, ’cause that shit is mucho hard—harder than most expect. We got work, we got bills, we got kids. We got problems, we got issues, we got a sociopath in the presidential office. We got lives filled with hyper-responsibility, fear, stress, and some real damning circumstances. But as adults, we also have a form of autonomy and agency that children do not. We get to seek our help. If we think the difficulties we face while adulting outweighs a child’s, perhaps we should consult portions of our own adolescence, where we’ll quickly be reminded that those wonder years weren’t always so wondrous.
Secondly, we can take into consideration a few possible warning signs laid out by the American Psychological Association (APA):
- Talking About Dying: Any mention of dying,
disappearing, jumping, shooting oneself, or other
types of self harm
- Change in Personality: Sad, withdrawn, irritable,
anxious, tired, indecisive, or apathetic
- Change in Behavior: Difficulty concentrating on
school, work, or routine tasks
- Change in Sleep Patterns: Insomnia, often with early
waking or oversleeping, nightmares
- Change in Eating Habits: Loss of appetite and
- Fear of losing control: Acting erratically, harming self or others
We have to get serious about how every day life is affecting Black children. Let Nakia’s Facebook suicide be a wakeup call to you. See ’bout those babies. Love them. Hug them. Know what’s up with them. Help them find… peace.
Ida Harris is a journalist and cultural critic covering a range of topics that intersect with Blackness, including art, activism, pop culture, parenting and womanhood. Ida is especially known for her critical writing on sexual assault against Black women and girls. Her work is featured in ELLE , DAME , Blavity, Teen Vogue , and USA Today.