Mental health experts are concerned about upward trends in suicide among Black youth. Studies show they’re attempting suicide more often than all other racial and ethnic groups – and the suicide death rate is rising at a faster pace.
A number of things can contribute to the increased risk. One is the presence of a psychiatric disorder. Others include socioeconomic factors, racism, trauma and being the victim of bullying. Experts say increasing access to treatment and highlighting protective measures—such as a young person having a strong support system—are ways to help reduce the risk.
Black youth suicide in the United States has been labeled a crisis by some mental health experts. Research shows that Black youth under 13 are twice as likely to die by suicide. Experts continue to study the how and why behind the increases. But Dr. Rhonda Boyd says one reason could be generational shifts.
“One of the things that may be different than other generations is that youth are able to see racist events over and over and over again everywhere they go. And we do have evidence that shows that there’s links between increased depression symptoms and post-traumatic stress symptoms when kids are exposed to racism,” says Boyd, an Associate Professor & Psychologist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Boyd adds that the underutilization of mental health services could be playing a role in Black youth suicide as well. there is stigma associated with accessing treatment. And the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychology says mental health and substance use problems in Black youth are often unrecognized, undertreated and misdiagnosed. The reasons include bias, discrimination, and structural racism.
The Academy also says Black youth are also more likely to get poor quality care and less likely to receive follow up treatment.
“We probably have a perception of who’s at risk for killing themselves and it looks different. And so, we want people to not ignore Black youth and think, oh, it’s a phase, or see behaviors and put them into disciplinary environments or the legal system and know that they need mental health treatment,” Boyd says.
Read more at WUWM.com.