A new study may reveal that long-term racism and prejudice, which affect Black students more than White students, is a cause of increasing suicide rates among Black girls, The New York Times reports.
A 2015 study was one of the first to note the trend among adolescents as well as the racial disparity between Black and White adolescents:
The lead author of the current study was a little suprised by the finding of increased suicide rates among Black adolescent girls:
“I think in the past suicide—or suicidal behavior—was just thought of as a white thing,” the Times quoted Dr Arielle H Sheftall, a principal investigator at the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, as saying. “And that’s not the case.”
Suicide is rare in young children, but it remains the second leading cause of death among all adolescents.
- Advice from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- NPR report about helping a teenager who might be suicidal
- Post from the University of Texas Health System, including several resources
The Times lists several underlying psychological conditions, such as depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, that might contribute to suicidal thoughs in adolescents, but there are no easy answers.
In addition, the numbers for Black girls may be under-reported because indirect suicide, where death results from girls putting themselves in harm’s way, may not be classified as a death by suicide.
“The question you should ask is, ‘Why is it that their will to live was so weak, or not strong enough, to prohibit them from engaging in those very risky behaviors that could in fact be deadly?'” the paper quotes Dr LaVome Robinson, a clinical psychologist and professor at DePaul University in Chicago who has studied suicidality in Black adolescents, as saying. “We live in a society that marginalizes us—more so probably than any other group—and has historically for years.”