Suicide is the third leading cause of death among children under 18, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Why are more black children dying by suicide?
A new study, conducted by Duke University researchers and published last week in JAMA Network Open, found that black children are eight times more likely to die by suicide than white children, and 5.2 times more likely than Latinos. After excluding minors who died of suicide attempts, black children were still 20 times more likely to die by suicide than whites.
Michael Bailey, a statistician and psychiatry professor at Duke University, told Mother Jones that “black suicide is particularly important,” but, he added, “it’s not about racism.”
“I believe racism doesn’t cause people to commit suicide,” he said. “If you are mistreated or you are rejected by society, you are gonna take your anger or your frustration or your sorrow and you are gonna do something about it.”
When I contacted Bailey and other Duke University researchers, they also pointed to genetics and racism as potential triggers for black kids to turn to suicide, as The Washington Post’s Izabella Kaminska reported in March.
Bailey’s investigators are one of a handful of research teams that have highlighted genetic and psychological reasons behind black suicides.
The claim that black kids may be more prone to suicide appears to contrast with the notion that race isn’t a factor in suicide—but, according to clinical depression expert Kristin Toinske, children of American Indian and Alaska Native backgrounds are even more at risk.
Many parents are already trying to work through this stigma surrounding suicide and antidepressants in general. This is the last thing they need. — Fatima Oramalah, founder of Safe Passage, a nonprofit that provides suicide prevention education
Black children can also get better treatment for depression than white kids, according to a 2013 study by researchers at the University of Michigan and the National Institutes of Health.
Though an exhaustive report on black suicide from the American Journal of Psychiatry found there is little data on which causes of death are more likely to cause black boys to commit suicide, a 2015 Stanford University study found that depression and bullying did play a role in suicide risk for black boys. The study, published in JAMA, suggested black youth who have experienced multiple forms of discrimination, such as racial segregation and societal stress, are three times more likely to die by suicide than their peers.
Watch Duke University’s interview below:
Are there other factors besides genetic predisposition playing a role in black kids dying by suicide?
There are several factors beyond genetics that can lead to suicide among black boys, ranging from violence in the home to stressful economic circumstances to being maligned in the media, according to researcher David Opperman, who provided a 2014 paper on Black Boys and Childhood Trauma at a National Science Foundation meeting.