After a phone call with his mother, where he expressed frustrations over a faulty printer in their one-bedroom apartment, Rylan Thai Hagan hung himself from his bunk bed with a belt, just three days before Thanksgiving. His mom, Nataya Chambers, came home, called her son's name several times, and eventually found his body in the bedroom, where she had to cut him down with a knife.
The 11-year-old was a model student: good grades, a tutor to other students, musician, and a basketball player on the way to a tournament at Walt Disney World.
"With children, it's hard to tell," Chambers said. "They smile, they don't tell you what's wrong, and they go back to being a child again."
Hagan is the youngest person in Washington to take his own life, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Within the last 10 years, suicide rates amongst black children under the age of 18 have risen by 71 percent, from 86 deaths in 2006 to 147 in 2016. Across the nation, suicide rates went up 64 percent. So the question becomes, why are rates for black children so high?
According to the Chicago Tribune, there may be two reasons behind this spike in suicides amongst black children.
1. Those who experience racism may be at a greater risk.
2. Mental health issues are pushed aside in the black community, which could lead to preventative efforts being few and far between.
Rheeda Walker, a psychology professor at the University of Houston, believes it may be a combination of the two.
“If there is a belief that black children do not kill themselves, there’s no reason to use tools to talk about suicide prevention,” Walker told the Chicago Tribune.
Her research presents findings that mental health may be linked to racism and from there, higher rates of suicide.
"Minorities often don't seek treatment," Erlanger Turner, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Houston, told the Chicago Tribune. "What we know is that people at risk of suicide often suffer from some mood disorder or depression. If you're not treated for these conditions, the risk is much higher.”
Rylan’s mother has had a hard time sleeping in the single bedroom and has refused to spend holidays in the apartment at all. She has booked a one-way ticket to California where she will grant herself the opportunity to start over.
To reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You can also text a crisis counselor by messaging 741741.