The suicide rate among Black children has doubled within the last two decades, while the suicide rates among White children has decreased, according to a new report.
The study, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, examined the suicides of children from the ages of 5-11 from 1993 to 2012 and saw an unfortunate new trend for Black children under the age of 12. Researchers found that during that time period, the suicide rates among Black children jumped from 1.36 to 2.54 per 1 million children. Contrastingly, suicide rates decreased among White children from 1.14 to 0.77 per 1 million children in that time period.
Jeffrey Bridge, a lead author in the study, told Reuters he was surprised at first with the results of the study because typically Whites have higher suicide rates. “When I initially looked at the results I thought we had made a mistake in the analyses because historically White youth in the United States have had higher suicide rates than Black youth,” he said.
This was the first study that showed a higher suicide rate among a group of African Americans compared to their White peers.
The researchers looked at a total of 657 children that died of suicide, an average of 33 suicides a year. Nearly 84 percent of the deaths was among boys. The researchers didn’t specifically investigate the reason for the suicides, but speculates that many factors, including traumatic stress and exposure to violence at an early age could be a reason why the rates were higher among Black children.
Stacey Freedenthal of the University of Denver, who was not a part of the study, told Reuters that “for many years Black youth have used mental health services less than White children and youth. This could be a factor in suicide rates, but why now when the differences in service use have existed for so long?”
The study noted that suicide was the 14th leading cause of death for Black children between the ages of 5-11 from1993-1997, but increased to being the ninth from 2008-2012. The study also found that among boys, firearm-related suicides were consistent among Blacks but decreased among Whites, which could raise questions about the consistency of gun safety education.
Dr. Shervin Assari, who works at the department of psychiatry at the University of Michigan, told the Huffington Post that more needs to be done for African Americans.
“The nation needs to fund more suicide studies on Blacks and monitor or provide better care for psychiatric disorders of Black youth,” Assari said. “This age group is mostly under the influence of the family. We know family-based interventions, which work. We know suicide prevention programs, which work. We know what works. We just need to implement it.”
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