The Suicide Rate Among Black Children Has Doubled Since the ’90s
Although the rate of suicides among black Americans is typically lower than that of whites, researchers at the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, have recently discovered alarming findings regarding black children ages 5 to 11. Washington University Professor Sean Joe wasn’t involved in the recent study, but surmises that the results may have something to do with social changes. “What it means to grow up young and black has changed,” Joe told The New York Times.
Meanwhile, Christine Moutier, chief medical officer for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, believes that the spike in child suicide could be linked to a decline in “protective factors” such as “strong social networks…family support [and] religious faith,” as well as a lack of effective gun safety education in black communities.
Whatever the reasons behind the suicides, the findings are certainly a cause for reflection as we move forward in our conversation on race in the U.S.
From The New York Times:
Suicide among children ages 5 to 11, the age range the study measured, is rare, and researchers had to blend several years of data to get reliable results. The findings, which measured the period from 1993 to 2012, were so surprising that researchers waited for an additional year of data to check them. The trend did not change.
Suicide rates are almost always lower among blacks than among whites of any age. But the study, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics on Monday, found that the rate had risen so steeply among black children — to 2.54 from 1.36 per one million children — that it was substantially above the rate among white children by the end of the period. The rate for white children fell to 0.77 per million from 1.14…“I was shocked, I’ll be honest with you,” said Jeffrey Bridge, an epidemiologist at the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. “I looked at it and I thought, ‘Did we do the analysis correctly?’ I thought we had made a mistake.”
The researchers used national data based on death certificates that listed suicide as the underlying cause. In the study, they offered a few possible explanations for the difference, including that black children are more likely to be exposed to violence and traumatic stress, and that black children are more likely to experience an early onset of puberty, which can increase the risk of depression and impulsive aggression. But it was not clear whether those characteristics had changed much over the period of the study and would account for the sharp rise.
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