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Recent Increase in Suicide Among Black Boys is Cause for Alarm

Teenage boy (13-15), close-up, portrait

Teenage boy (13-15), close-up, portrait

By Tamiya King

While it is very rare for children between the ages of 5 and 11 to take their own lives, the percentage of child suicides is higher in Black boys.

According to U.S. data, between the years of 1993 and 2012, there were 657 suicides that occurred in children between 5 and 11 years of age. Most of these children were either 10 or 11 years old, and there was one suicide that occurred with a 5-year-old.

During the years mentioned, about 1 in every million children committed suicide. However, the rate of Black boys who committed suicide increased from 2 per million children to 3.5 per million children. White children in the same age group experienced a decline in suicides, at 1.4 per million.

Historically, Black boys have been less likely to commit suicide than their white peers. Jeffrey Bridge, a suicide researcher at Columbus, Ohio’s Research Institute of Nationwide Children’s Hospital, has stated that the reason for the recent trend is not clear. The authors of the study, which was published in JAMA Pediatrics, suggested that Black boys may feel significant stress due to the violence and school discipline they are exposed to, which is in a higher scale than white children of the same age. The authors assert that Black boys are less likely to get help for the depression and anxiety that could develop as a result of these negative factors, but it is still not confirmed whether these factors lead to suicide.

Bridge admonishes parents to be aware of signs of potential suicide in order to keep their children safe. Symptoms such as prolonged periods of unhappiness, withdrawing from friends and family members and talking about suicide are indicators.

A mental health professional may prove helpful in these instances. Traditionally, Black people have turned to their spirituality in an attempt to achieve mental balance. However, in extreme circumstances, a professional who is trained to diagnose and treat disorders of the mind could ultimately help to save the child’s life. also asserts that not only are Black people less likely to get the medical help necessary to treat their mental disorder, they are also less likely to continue treatment or to make follow-up appointments.

Bridge also shared that parents who think their children are considering suicide should ask the children directly if they have plans to end their lives. This can make way for a healthy discussion about safe ways to deal with depression, as well as feelings of anxiety or sadness.

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