Mental health experts are scratching their heads about African-American teen suicides, a phenomenon two researchers say is “skyrocketing” across the United States in a study that shows drastic increases in attempts and deaths since 2001.
“We’ve known for a long time that adolescent males have a higher suicide rate than females,” said University of Toledo professor emeritus James Price, one of two authors of The Changing Characteristics of African-American Adolescent Suicides, 2001 – 2017 — a report released last month detailing an upward trend of suicide deaths and attempts among blacks aged 13 to 19 throughout a 16-year period.
“What’s going on is we’re seeing an increase in African-American females. Males used to be five times more likely to commit suicide, now they’re about three times,” he said. “There’s been a narrowing of the gap.”
Mr. Price and Jagdish Khubchandani, a health science professor at Ball State concluded that the rate of African-American suicides from adolescent females rose by 182 percent over the time period, while the rate for males jumped by 60 percent. In that same time period, there were 1,375 black male teen suicides and 377 female teen suicides across the United States, catapulting suicide to become the second leading cause of death among African-American adolescents behind homicides.
Suicide attempts serious enough that the individual needed medical attention also skyrocketed. African-American adolescent females attempted 94,760 suicides over that period, while males made 68,528 attempts. For males, 52 percent of all suicides involved a firearm, while 56 percent of females hanged themselves or suffocated.
Mr. Price and Mr. Khubchandani contend that one of the biggest problems facing black teens who are suicidal is a prevalence of guns in households. Mr. Price conducted a 1994 study titled “African-American adults’ perceptions of guns and violence” revealed that only 14 percent of African-Americans in the study believed that having a gun in the house would increase the risk of suicide.
If you or some one you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-(800) 273-8255 (TALK).
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