Justin Wm. Moyer, Chicago Tribune, March 8, 2018
Nationwide, suicides among black children under 18 are up 71 percent in the past decade, rising from 86 in 2006 to 147 in 2016, the latest year such data is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In that same period, the suicide rate among all children also increased, up 64 percent.
Researchers aren’t sure what has fueled the slightly larger rise for black children. Some speculate that those affected by racism might be at greater risk. Another factor could be the notion that suicide isn’t a problem in the black community, hindering prevention efforts.
Among the youngest children, suicide for those 13 and under rose 114 percent from 2006 to 2016. In a bright spot for black youth, the rate of growth in this age group rose more slowly, at 30 percent.
Rheeda Walker, a psychology professor at the University of Houston, said her research into African-American mental health shows possible links between perceived racism and suicide among black youths. And the perception that suicide isn’t a black problem makes it difficult for parents, teachers and others to spot warning signs.
“If there is a belief that black children do not kill themselves, there’s no reason to use tools to talk about suicide prevention,” she said.
“Minorities often don’t seek treatment,” said Erlanger Turner, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Houston who also studies race and culture. “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.”