Suicide rates among young black boys on the rise

By Carina Storrs, Special to CNN





Researchers were surprised to see increasing suicide rates among black
children, especially boys.

Story highlights

*        The rate of suicide among black boys ages 5 to 11 doubled between
1993 and 2012.

*        The rate of suicide among white boys the same age has decreased

*        The trend in suicide rates appears similar among black and white

(CNN)The rates of suicide among African-American children have doubled in
the last two decades, surpassing the rates among white children, which
dropped over the same time period, according to a new study.

Researchers looked at the suicide rates among children ages 5 to 11 between
1993 and 2012. The rates overall did not change over these years, but the
rates among black boys rose from 1.78 to 3.47 per 1 million. In contrast,
suicides among white boys declined from 1.96 to 1.31 per million. In just
the 5-year period between 2008 and 2012 there were 41 suicide deaths among
black boys, and 73 among white boys.

"Suicide rates in the U.S. have historically been higher among white
individuals across all age groups," said
<> Jeffrey Bridge,
epidemiologist at the Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital
in Columbus, Ohio, who led the research, published Monday in the journal
5.0465> JAMA Pediatrics. "We were very surprised to see higher suicide rates
among black children over time," added Bridge, who is also associate
professor of pediatrics at The Ohio State University.

In fact, the researchers waited for numbers from 2012 to be available from
the  <> Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, which was their source of data, to have more confidence in what
they were seeing. It did not change their findings.

The suicide rates among girls, although about five times lower than those
for boys, followed the same racial trend. The rates among black girls
increased from 0.68 to 1.23 per 1 million, although the rise was not
statistically significant. Meanwhile the rates among white girls appeared to
be stable, at about 0.25 per million.

During the first time period that the researchers studied, 1993 to 1997,
suicide rates were similar for black and white boys. Suicide was the 14th
and 12th leading cause of death among black and white children,
respectively, over those years.

However, rates among black boys had overtaken those for white boys by 2003.
Between 2008 and 2012, suicide was the ninth leading cause of death among
black children, and the 11th among white children.

The authors of the study did not investigate the reasons for the increase
but speculate that suicide rates may be higher for black children for
various reasons, including the possibility that they may have more exposure
to violence and aggression than white children and be less likely to get
help for depression and suicide attempts. In addition, black children tend
to go through puberty at a younger age, and
<> research
suggests that children are more likely to harm themselves after puberty. It
is unclear at this stage if any of these factors, or others, underlie the
trend, Bridge said.

"Suicide is pretty rare in all kids before puberty," said Dr. David Shaffer,
professor of pediatrics and child psychiatry at Columbia University Medical
Center, who was not involved in the research. Still, the current study shows
"a very interesting aberration" that should be studied more, he said.

The study found that hanging and suffocation were the most common suicide
methods, accounting for 78.2% of the suicide deaths. Shooting was the second
most common method, involved in 17.7% of the cases. Whereas the rates of
gun-related suicide decreased in white boys, there was no change in the
rates among black boys over the time period, suggesting that efforts to
improve gun safety could be helping white, but not black, boys.

At the same time, the study found an increase in the rates of suicide due to
hanging or suffocation among black boys, while the rate did not change among
white boys. A total of 657 children ages 5 to 11 committed suicide between
1993 and 2012. Suicide is about 50 times more common in adolescents ages 12
to 19. In 2012, it was the second leading cause for that older age group.
The authors state that programs for children even before they display
suicidal behavior could help reduce suicide rates among adolescents.




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