Black Children & Suicide Prevention: A Call To Action

African American family playing outside

The village needs healing. Suicide ranked 14th as a cause of death among Black children in 1993-1997, but increased to 9th in 2008 – 2012. In a 2015 study published in JAMA Pediatrics looking at suicide among elementary aged children aged 5 to 11 years, the rate increased significantly for Black children – in particular Black boys – while it declined for White children.

What’s behind these findings?

SAMHSA suicide facebook in partnership with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) launched a national conversation on preventing suicide and promoting positive development among African American children, beginning with the “Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention Facebook Chat” on September 8. Leading mental health experts Dr. Angela Ali, Kimya N. Dennis, PhD and Dr. Isaiah Pickens discussed the mental health and well-being of young Black children, especially those at risk for death by suicide.

Dr. Angela Ali is a Chicago-based Psychologist & Licensed Therapist.

Dr. Isaiah Pickens is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist based in LA, founder of iOpening Enterprises, and Assistant Director of of the Service System Program at the UCLA-Duke National Center for Child Traumatic Stress.

Kimya N. Dennis, PhD is a sociologist and criminologist with interdisciplinary research and community outreach dealing with suicide and suicidal self-harm, mental health, and reproductive freedom.

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On the following pages is a transcript of this informative live chat, exploring ways to address this urgent issue and engage parents, national organizations, health professionals, community and faith-based organizations and anyone who believes in promoting positive mental health in Black children.

For additional resources and information visit the SAMHSA website at If you or a loved one is in need of help, call the National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255.

Q1. What do we know about the rates of suicide among Black youth?

Dr. Angela Ali What we know is that the rates of suicide are somewhat less than the national average, however still high…especially among young black males.

Kimya N. Dennis, PhD Yes, rates are increasing but still lower than national average. This varies across gender.

This is still important because, as with the case for Black suicide as compared to white suicide, a “lower across-racial rate” does not mean there is not an issue worthy of research and discussion.