There is a new and disturbing trend that has come to light, African American children are committing suicide at a rate that is twice that of their white counterparts. This according to a new study that shows a widening gap between the two groups.
The 2001-2015 data, recently published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, confirm a pattern first identified several years ago when researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio found that the rate of suicides for black children ages 5 to 12 exceeded that of young whites. The results were seen in both boys and girls.
Fortunately, suicides are rare among young children, but these latest findings reinforce the need for better research into the racial disparities.
According to Jeffrey Bridge, lead author of the study, “We can’t assume any longer that suicide rates are uniformly higher in white individuals than black,” “There is this age-related disparity, and now we have to understand the underlying reasons. … Most of the previous research has largely concerned white suicide. So, we don’t even know if the same risk and protective factors apply to black youth.”
Historically, suicide rates in the United States have been higher for whites than blacks across all age groups. That remains the case for adolescents, ages 13 to 17, according to the new study. White teens continue to have a 50 percent higher rate of suicide than black teens.
Psychiatrist Samoon Ahmad, a clinical associate professor at the NYU School of Medicine believes there could be a number of reasons for the disparity. Ahmed commented that, “To me, the 5-12 range is more related to developmental issues and the possible lack of a family network, social network and cultural activities,” “and with the introduction of social media, there is more isolation with children, not as much neighborhood play. Kids are more socially in their own vacuum.”
Specialists remain perplexed by the situation but are committed to continue looking into the possible reasons for this sad development.