By State Representative, Leon D. Young
New Factoid: The suicide rate among Black children has nearly doubled since the early 1990s, while the rate for white children has declined over this same period. This begs the obvious question: Why?
Traditionally, suicide rates have almost always been lower among Blacks than whites of any age group. However, a new study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics found that the suicide rate had risen so steeply among Black children that it was substantially above the rate among white children.
To reach this conclusion, US death rate statistics from 1993-2012 were used for the JAMA Pediatrics journal report, and the divergent trend was shown by:
• Increased rates in black children, from 1.36 suicide deaths to 2.54 in every million
• Decreased rates in white children, from 1.14 to 0.77 per million children.
• A total of 657 children aged between 5 and 11 years died by suicide between 1993 and 2012
• Most of these kids, 84%, were boys (553 of them, compared with 104 girls)
The rate for all US child suicides in the age group overall remained stable, at around one death in every million children.
However, the rise in young Black children committing suicide is mostly accounted for by boys, although there was also an increasing rate, but without statistical significance, of Black girls dying by suicide while the rate remained stable among white girls.
The most common means by which the kids in the age group died overall was hanging/suffocation – accounting for 514 of the 657 suicide deaths, or 78%. Use of firearms resulted in 116 suicides (18%) and 27 were by other methods (4%).
Moreover, it should be noted that suicide rates in rural areas were much higher than rates in urban areas, driven in part by the higher rate of gun-related suicides in rural areas of the country.
It has long been suspected that the traditionally lower suicide rates for Blacks had often been attributed to strong social networks and family support, religious faith and other cultural factors.
But, whatever the actually reasons for these lower rates in the past, something has changed dramatically and now Black children are shockingly opting to take their own lives.