The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has recently announced a new $26 million grant to offer continued support to 16 low-income neighborhoods – including those on the West Side – in the foundation’s New Communities Program.

The new grant is one of the largest ever awarded in the MacArthur Foundation’s 30-year history and is part of a 10-year, $150 million investment plan to improve Chicago’s neighborhoods.

The New Communities Program, launched in May 2005 and run by the Chicago office of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, was created to kick-start development in areas desperately in need of rejuvenation.

“The hopes that we had in May of 2005 are now becoming a reality, and you can see it all around us,” said MacArthur Foundation President John Fanton. “Affordable housing is being built and preserved, new businesses created and commercial corridors revitalized.”

Fanton said an additional $4 million will be provided to take the Chicago model to 10 other cities across the country from Washington, D.C. to the San Francisco Bay area.

High suicide rates among whites

According to various studies, white men have among the highest rate of suicide and suicide attempts in the United States, but some minority groups are catching up and even surpassing whites in some instances.

Nationwide, non-Hispanic American Indians have the highest suicide rate, with non-Hispanic white men close behind. Illinois’ low American Indian population does not reflect the national trend, according to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, which provides materials and case studies to suicide prevention hotlines and mental health facilities. The center, however, does not provide a race-specific fact sheet for the high-risk group of white males.

Experts, though, have addressed the difference in suicide rates by gender. Men complete suicide four times more than women, according to American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website.

Suicide rates are higher among men, even though women attempt suicide twice as much as men, because men use more lethal means, said prevention specialist Katherine Wootten of the Suicide Prevention Resource Center. Also, men are less likely to engage in help-seeking behavior.

“There’s a general stigma around mental illness and an added layer of being a man- it’s less acceptable to seek help because of social norms,” said Wootten.

-compiled by Terry Dean