Suicide attempts among Black teens have increased within the past two decades, according to a new study published this week.
According to an article published by the journal Pediatrics, the study found that from 1991-2017 self-reported suicide attempts have decreased for all of America’s youth expect African-Africans. In fact, the number of black children that attempted to take their life went up by 73% during this time span. There was also a spike in black boys who have injured themselves while attempting suicide.
The study’s findings are based on data collected by the Youth Risk Behavior Survey from close to 200,000 high school students. The researchers behind the study offer several suggestions for this increase. Historically, mental health treatment has been stigmatized by the African-American community. Also, black children are less likely to receive mental health treatment than their white counterparts. But because suicide attempts have decreased among all other ethnic groups, the study’s author, Michael Lindsey, suggests that these attempts could be more impulsive.
“It’s important to contextualize behaviors that could lead to suicide,” Lindsey said, per The Guardian. “We did not expect to see that black youth would be the only group to have the statistical increase [in suicide attempts]. Now begins the work of trying to figure it out.” It should also be noted that this study only measures self-reported suicide attempts. Another researcher on the study, Sean Joe, pointed to “racial based structural issues” as another factor. “So these kind of racial based structural issues, as well as the psychiatric issues that they might be experiencing, and the lack of science and investment — until we have equity in our science — those are a confluence of factors,” Joe said, per CBS News. According to the CDC, suicide is listed as the second leading cause of death among youths aged 15-19.
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255), text “home” to the Crisis Text Line (741-741), or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.