In honor of National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day let’s talk about the increase in suicide rates for black children.
Lately you may have noticed an influx in headlines regarding the increase in suicides among black children, especially black boys:
- Suicide rates for black children twice that of white children, new data show
- Why Are Black Children Killing Themselves?
- Schools need to step up to fight a rise in suicides among black children
It is alarming to see that our black children, boys especially, are finding their way to such a permanent method of ending their sorrows. Many of the sources say they are unable to identify the direct cause at this time however I think it is fair to say that just as many black adults, our children are carrying the weight of individual, community and generational trauma. Add to that the stigma around mental illness, toxic narratives in our community about being strong & pushing through, and the normal pressures that come with being a kid in today’s society. For many adults that pain is too much to bare so we can’t truly expect that our children won’t to buckle under the weight as well?
If this isn’t enough to proof that we need to start rethinking our approach to mental health then I don’t know what is. Here’s how we can begin to make change to protect our children.
- Between 1999 and 2015, more than 1,300 children ages 5 to 12 took their own lives in the United States
- Suicide is one of the leading causes of death for older children & adolescents in the United States & 3rd leading cause of death for black males 15-24
- Since 2001 the rate of suicides for black children (boys & girls) ages 5 to 12 has exceeded that of young whites
- Rate of suicide is 2x higher for black youth ages 5-12 than white youth ages 5-12
- Among ages 5-14, those who took their own lives were more likely to be male, African American and dealing with stressful relationships at home or with friends frequently meeting criteria for attention-deficit disorder or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
- Young adolescents (12-14) who killed themselves were more likely to have relationship problems with a boyfriend or girlfriend & higher rates of depression
- For Parents, Educators, & other Caregivers:
- Talk to the youth under 18 in your life about mental health and suicide
- Provide education to youth on healthy ways to manage emotions
- Practice and model safe and healthy expression of feelings
- Keep an eye out for, inquire about, and address bullying head on
- Pay attention to any behavioral changes in youth and inquire about them immediately
- Keep weapons and drugs (including prescriptions) out of reach of children and adolescents
- Never assume children are too young to have thoughts of suicide or experience the impact of an event
- Stop telling black boys not to cry instead teach them to acknowledge, name, express and address their emotions
- Find a children’s therapist, especially one who specializes in trauma and cultural concerns
- Go to your own therapy
- For Therapists, Healers, Case Managers, & other Professionals:
- Educate children and parents about the impact of trauma on mental health
- Address symptoms of trauma immediately
- Do not be afraid to ask children directly if they are having thoughts of harming or killing themselves
- Never assume a child is too young to have thoughts of suicide
- Remind caregivers of the risk factors
- Address bullying, racism, homophobia, etc head on
- Do more research! (The topic of Black mental health is severely lacking in research)
This isn’t a change we might see overnight however it is a much needed change for all of us as our children are suffering. We can all find ways to do our part.