In a recent study performed by the Pediatrics Journal, it was observed that black children, particularly boys five to 11 years of age, experience an increase in the rate of suicide deaths; where their suicide rate is found to be two times higher when compared to their white counterparts. The study was conducted using the Youth Risk Behaviour Survey, a national representative school-based survey from the years 1991-2017.The purpose of this study was to research if the racial and ethnic subgroups of adolescents in the States were at a higher risk for engaging in suicidal behaviors. It was deduced that, over time, among all other racial groups, only black youths have experienced an increase in suicide attempts.
Suicide is listed as the second leading cause of death in youth aged 12 to 18 years old, and in the year 2017 it was the cause of more than 2,200 adolescent deaths. Childhood maltreatment, mental health concerns (for example, depression), neurocognitive functioning deficits, and other risk factors have all been associated with suicide attempts, suicidal ideation, and death by suicide.
This study further discusses the gender disparity in youth suicidal behavior. It found that girls, compared to boys, are more likely to attempt suicide and have suicidal ideation. Whereas boys are more likely to die by suicide than attempting or ideating suicide.
Within racial and ethnic subgroups, non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaskan native boys and girls have the highest rates of suicide, followed by non-Hispanic white boys and girls, non-Hispanic black boys and girls, then Hispanic boys and girls. Non-Hispanic Asian American or Pacific Islander youth have the lowest suicide rates in the United States, as per the Pediatrics study. However, in the years between 1991 and 2017, there were different trends noticed among these groups from the initial suicide alignment.
A significant linear decrease in self-reported suicide ideation and suicide plans was observed from the period between 1991 and 2017, and female adolescents overall were shown to have significant decreases in suicide attempts over time. Black adolescents, on the other hand, had positive linear trends for attempts among both boys and girls, and boys had a significant linear increase in injury by attempt. This change was reasoned to be due to the social etiologic factors that are disproportionately experienced by black adolescents, which include racial discrimination, adverse childhood experiences (ex: abuse and neglect), and poverty, all of which have been positively associated with suicidal behaviors in this demographic.
Researchers believe that the rising rates of suicide attempts in black youth may be related to the documented disparities in mental health treatment and common social etiologic factors disproportionately experienced by black youth.
Findings further reveal that over that span of time, almost one in five adolescents are thinking about suicide, and more than one in 10 have a suicide plan. Despite increased attention given to the creation of campaigns to reduce youth suicide in the United States over the last decade, these findings suggest that continued concern and attention regarding suicidal behaviors among high school–aged youth is warranted.
This matter requires urgent attention from health care professionals and government officials to reduce the stigma of having mental health illnesses in the black community, and increase help-seeking behaviors to prevent intentional deaths and the loss of young individuals.