Why Are Suicides Increasing Among Young Black Boys?

boy serious indoors

Suicides among black American children have increased in recent years, while fewer white children are killing themselves, a new analysis finds.

The odds of any children in the age group 5 to 11 taking their own life remain small. But young black children are three times as likely to do so as whites, the researchers said.

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“While overall suicide rates in children younger than 12 years in the United States remained steady from 1993 to 2012, there was a significant increase in suicide rates among black children and a significant decrease in suicide in white children,” said Jeffrey Bridge, of the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

“Many factors affecting black youth, including increased exposure to violence and traumatic stress, early onset of puberty, and lower likelihood to seek help for depression, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts may be contributing to the disparity, ” Bridge added. “But the specific impact of each of these risks is unclear.”

Hanging/suffocation, the leading suicide method, accounted for more than three-quarters of the total suicide deaths. Guns were used in nearly 20 percent of cases, the study found.

Bridge and his colleagues published their findings in the May 18 online edition of JAMA Pediatrics.

To explore trends in youth suicide, the investigators reviewed 20 years of information from U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention databases.