- New data show an almost 80% increase in black male adolescents who have been attempting suicide since 1991.
- The idea of suicide is also increasing, especially for white, black and Hispanic women.
- Visit the Insider homepage for more stories.
While the rates of suicidal ideation and anxiety they increased sharply during the pandemic, a new one study finds that suicide attempts, particularly in adolescents, have grown at an alarming rate long before COVID-19.
The study, published Monday in the journal JAMA, found that teens attempting suicide increased 22% over the course of nearly three decades, but the trend varied by gender and race.
Black males had the highest increase in suicide attempts compared to any other race in the group, for example, increasing by almost 80%.
Other groups of women have also had this upward trend. More white women have attempted suicide since 2009-2019, for example. The idea of suicide is also increasing for white, black and Hispanic women.
Researchers at Indiana and Purdue University studied 183,563 high school students from 1991 to 2019 in the United States. The survey was given twice a year and asked three questions about suicide ideas, suicide plans and suicide attempts.
Black youth are treated as stronger and older, but they don’t have people to talk about vulnerability
The study’s authors said young blacks face financial difficulties, among other stressors, and that they may have untreated mental health needs.
“It’s a tremendously perfect storm by a number of factors,” he said. Alfiee M. Breland-Noble, a psychologist and expert in suicide prevention, said of the reasons for the upward trend.
Breland-Noble pointed to the fact that young black men are discriminated against in school and can often be perceived as older than they are.
There is also a lack of black therapists to talk to black youth about the difficulties they face. No matter how well a psychologist who is not black, said Breland-Noble, cannot relate to the lived experiences of a young black person.
“They don’t understand the concepts that your family has to deal with, the daily stressors. They don’t understand racial trauma, they don’t understand the stress induced by racism,” Breland-Noble said.
Suicide prevention programs must take into account the systematic racism that makes young black men
Breland-Noble told the Insider that she was happy to see famous men of color, such as Wayne Brady and Charlamagne at God, talking about their mental health problems, inspiring young black people to open up.
“I’m able to see people who look like people who have said,‘ Yeah, it’s something I also seem to struggle with. ’That in a tiny way decreases stigma in terms of conversation,” Breland-Noble said.
But both Breland-Noble and the authors of the JAMA study have said it’s not about young black people, but about the medical community meeting them wherever they are.
“For black males and young people in particular,” the authors wrote, “increasing risks, such as adverse childhood experiences, systematic racism,” discrimination, neighborhood violence, and socioeconomic disparities ”need to be addressed.
Breland-Noble agreed. “There are some really significant differences in terms of how communities approach mental health, approach suicide, and approach the pursuit of mental assistance.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or has had thoughts of harming or taking their own life, get help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) provides free confidential 24/7 support for people in distress, as well as best practices for professionals and resources to assist in prevention and crisis situations.