Black suicide rates in US have risen dramatically among youths
The US is facing a troubling rise in suicide rates among Black youths in recent years, a crisis that has been simmering for two decades.
Black suicide rates, among America’s lowest prior to 2000, have steadily climbed in the past two decades – and young Black people are most at risk:
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rates among those ages 10 to 24 rose 36.6% from 2018 to 2021, the largest percentage jump among any demographic.
The problem is particularly acute among girls: In 2020, suicide was the leading cause of death for Black girls aged 12 to 14, said Arielle Sheftall, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York.
“We don’t know why, and that hinders our ability to prevent these deaths from occurring,” Sheftall said. “That’s the scariest piece of all.”
A developing storm of contributing factors
Experts say the isolation of the pandemic worsened a situation already complicated by racism and discrimination, proliferating images of police brutality, community stigma around seeking mental health treatment, distrust of the healthcare system and a lack of culturally competent providers and Black representation in the field.
“In recent years, Black youth have witnessed increased inequities related to COVID, police brutality, racial unrest and hate crimes,” said Jenny Cureton, an associate professor of lifespan development and educational sciences at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio.
A recent study found that Black children experience or perceive racism and discrimination at as young as 6 years of age; both are known factors for suicidal behaviors and thoughts among Black adolescents, “and unfortunately, that is trickling down to our younger Black youth,” Sheftall said.
While the issues of systemic racism are not new, awareness of its realities has grown, with the internet and social media making it more visible to youths, whether through news coverage, hate speech, bullying or video footage. A 2022 Pew Research Center study found Black teens were more likely than any other group to say they were online almost constantly.
“Young people can clearly see that Black lives are devalued when they see images of people being brutalized on the internet and on TV,” said Sherry Molock, an associate professor of clinical psychology at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. “And it’s not lost on young people that there are different consequences to their behavior. Those are systemic issues.”
Source: USA Today