A new report published Monday, May 21, in the JAMA Pediatrics journal shows that suicide rates for black children are two times higher than that of their white counterparts.
The data collected from 2001-2015 by researchers look at the suicide rates of black children between 5 and 12 years old and suggests black children commit suicide at a higher rate. During that period, 1,300 children took their own lives per a CDC report.
According to The Washington Post, the report confirms a pattern identified by researchers at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Ohio several years prior.
Jeffrey Bridge, lead author and an epidemiologist who directs the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at the Columbus hospital said, “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.”
Even with the new data, researchers are demanding more studies into the causes of young suicides. Bridge calls for a closer look at racial disparities because, typically, suicide is not high among young children. The report bucks a common trend regarding suicide. Among white teens 13 to 17 years old, suicide rates are still 50 percent higher than that of black teens.
One of the weaknesses of the report is that there is no cultural context for why black children are taking their lives at higher rates.
Bridge and his co-authors discovered that children who commit suicide between ages 5 to 11, and young adolescents, ages 12 to 14, were usually male. The report states many dealt with stressful relationships at home and at school. Those who had a mental health issue prior to the suicide were likely diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Psychiatrist Samoon Ahmad offered some ideas to curb the issue. He believes that there should be a commitment to communication.
“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,” Ahmad, a clinical associate professor at the New York University School of Medicine who was not involved in the research, said. “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.”
“No one talks about that with them. We tend to put them in silos, and don’t discuss these things because we think it’s too traumatic,” he added. “Instead, there must be a slow and steady flow of communication.”