UPDATED: 6:00 A.M. ET, Jan. 22, 2022
Originally published: Sept. 10, 2021
The world woke up to the tragic news Saturday morning that the only son of celebrated actress Regina King had died by suicide just a few days after his 26th birthday and less than a week after his mother’s.
Ian Alexander Jr.’s death was confirmed by his mother in an emotional statement that underscored the deep bond between the two, PEOPLE reported.
“Our family is devastated at the deepest level by the loss of Ian,” King said. “He is such a bright light who cared so deeply about the happiness of others. Our family asks for respectful consideration during this private time. Thank you.”
King previously described her love for her son as “unconditional” and called being his mother “most fulfilling.”
Alexander, a DJ who performed under the name Desduné, offered a moving birthday tribute to King via an Instagram post a little more than a year ago that said in part having her as a mother “is the greatest gift I could ask for.”
The circumstances and details surrounding Alexander Jr.’s suicide were not immediately available.
However, his death draws attention to a rising trend of Black people taking their own lives. While overall statistics point to Black people typically having among the lowest suicide rates, new data shows that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed those numbers for the worst.
Whether it’s due to mental illness, stress, feelings of hopelessness or any of the multiple other reasons why people commit suicide, it is something that affects folks from all walks of life. Keep reading to find a list of notable Black people who have died by suicide.
Data provided by the Suicide Prevention Resource Center show that from 2010 to 2019 — the most recent years statistics were available for — Black people in the U.S. had a suicide rate of 7.4% per 100,000 people. That is compared to the overall rate of 13.2% per 100,000 people for everybody in the U.S.
When looking at the data according to age, Black people have the lowest suicide rates of all age groups, from childhood on up through the mid-80s.
“Among Black populations, suicide rates peak during adolescence and young adulthood, then decline. This is a different pattern than is seen in the overall U.S. population, where suicide rates peak in midlife,” according to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center data.
Black males have more than double the suicide rate of Black females, but each group’s rate is significantly lower than that of their white counterparts.
Overall, “the suicide death rate for men is more than four times the rate for women in Black populations” and the “suicide death rate for the overall U.S. population is approximately double that of Black populations for both males and females,” the Suicide Prevention Resource Center found.
When it comes to suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts, however, the rates for Black people are commensurately higher than the previous categories. In fact, “the percentage of past-year suicide attempt was higher in Black adult populations,” the Suicide Prevention Resource Center said.
Similar numbers are consistent with Black high-school-aged youth, as “a higher percentage of Black youth have attempted suicide in the past year.”
But that Suicide Prevention Resource Center data has been upended by the pandemic, which has sent them shooting through the roof.
A recent study analyzed a group of Maryland residents during the first six months of 2020. Interestingly, at the height of the lockdown during the Spring of 2020, researchers found an “overall decrease in suicides rates compared to the previous three years,” the study notes.
However, investigators also uncovered some alarming data. While suicides among White Marylanders decreased by 45 percent between early March and May, rates of suicide-related deaths among Black people in the state spiked by 94 percent during the same time period.
psychiatrist Paul Nestadt, who conducted the study, said he believes the virus’ disproportional impact on the Black community could have contributed to the massive surge, noting that African American’s were impacted harder during the pandemic–both in terms of fatality and infection rates coupled with historic numbers of unemployment.
Keep reading to find a list below of notable Black people who have died by suicide, in no certain order.
1. Ian Alexander Jr.
The only son of actress Regina King, Ian Alexander died by suicide at the age of 26, just days after he celebrated his birthday. His death was reported overnight into the early morning of Jan. 22, 2022.
2. Jas Waters, TV writerSource:IMDB
Jas “JasFly” Waters, a television writer who penned scripts for hit shows like “This Is Us,” died by suicide on June 9, 2020. She was just 39 years old.
3. Etika, popular YouTuberSource:NYPD
Social media personality Etika, whose real name is Desmond Amofah, was found dead on June 25, 2019. It was later determined that the 29-year-old died by suicide after his body was found in the East River in New York City.
4. Capital Steez, rapper
Capital Steez, an up and coming New York City rapper who was already widely critically acclaimed, died by suicide on Christmas Eve in 2012 by jumping off a building’s roof. He was just 19 years old.
5. J.J. Johnson, trombonistSource:Getty
J.J. Johnson, a pioneering jazz trombonist whose career spanned several decades, died by suicide on Feb. 5, 2001. He was 77 years old.
6. Chris Lighty, record executiveSource:Getty
Chris Lighty, a record executive who also managed top names in hip-hop music, died by suicide on Aug. 30, 2012, from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was 44 years old.
7. Jovan Belcher, NFL playerSource:Getty
Jovan Belcher, a star linebacker in the NFL who played for the Kansas City Chiefs died by suicide after he killed his girlfriend on Dec. 1, 2012. Belcher was 25 years old and his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, was 22.
8. Stephanie Adams, modelSource:Getty
Stephanie Adams, a former Playboy centerfold model, died by suicide along with her 7-year-old son after she jumped from a hotel window in New York City on May 18, 2018. Adams was 46 years old.
9. Shakir Stewart, record executiveSource:Getty
Shakir Stewart, an executive at famed hip-hop record label Def Jam, died by suicide on Nov. 1, 2008, after he shot himself. He was 34 years old.
10. Don Cornelius, host of “Soul Train”Source:Getty
Don Cornelius, the founder and host of the “Soul Train” TV dance show, died by suicide on Feb. 1, 2012, from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He was 75 years old.
11. Phyllis Hyman, singerSource:Getty
Phyllis Hyman, a popular R&B singer, died by suicide on June 30, 1995, from an apparent self-induced drug overdose on prescription pills. She was 45 years old.