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Stigma, Poverty and Distrust May Be to Blame for Disproportionate Increase in ‘Suicide Attempts’ Among Black Teens

More Black teens than previously have admitted to trying to kill themselves over the past 18 years even though the statistic for other minority groups has decreased, according to a study published Monday.

Although the number of self-reported suicide attempts for white teens has not changed significantly over the years, researchers found a 73 percent increase for Black boys and girls in high school, according to the study published in the medical journal Pediatrics.

Doctors use a defibrillator on a Black male patient. (Photo: Getty)

It’s been well-reported that suicide is the second-leading cause of death among adolescents and that suicide rates for Black boys and girls are lower than those for white children.

This study, however, added to recent research showing suicide rates and attempts are increasing among Black children.

In fact, “suicide attempts increased only among black adolescents” of subgroup findings between 1991 and 2017, researchers concluded in the new study.

Particularly, Black boys as young as 5 years old and as old as 11 have seen increased suicide rates, according to further research The Guardian cited.

The suicide rates for Black children as young as 5 and as old as 12 has doubled compared with their white counterparts, the newspaper reported.

The recent study’s work, relying on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research, used results from the nationally representative Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

In the survey, 198,540 high school students were asked four questions on suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

“For black boys, a significant increase in injury by attempt occurred, which suggests that black boys may be engaging in increasingly lethal means when attempting suicide,” researchers said.

While they haven’t yet determined what’s causing the increase in attempts, past studies have shown Black young people are less likely to receive mental health treatment than their white peers for various reasons.

Racial discrimination, poverty, stigma against mental health treatments and a mistrust of mental healthcare providers are some of them, researchers said.

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“The results suggest that, over time, black youth have experienced an increase in suicide attempts, which is troubling because attempts are the most prominent risk factor associated with suicide death,” researchers said.

Michael Lindsey, an author of the study, concluded in the study that future research should examine underlying reasons for changes observed in high school students.

“It’s important to contextualize behaviors that could lead to suicide,” Lindsey said in 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.”

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