Author(s): The Congressional Black Caucus – Emergency Taskforce on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health
Published: Dec. 17, 2019
“Over the last several years, data has emerged indicating an alarming increase in the suicide rates for Black children and teenagers over the past generation. While research has also shown climbing rates for youth from other racial and ethnic groups, this trend in Black youth runs counter to historical data showing lower rates of suicide among Black Americans. It challenges the public perception that Black youth simply do not commit suicide. Additional research about suicidal behaviors has raised questions about whether the path from suicidal thoughts to attempts is well understood in Black youth, and whether we have the knowledge and tools to intervene before the worst happens.
In youth ages 10 to 19 years, suicide is the second leading cause of death, and in 2017, over 3,000 youth died by suicide in this age group. Over the past decade, increases in the suicide death rate for Black youth have seen the rate rising from 2.55 per 100,000 in 2007 to 4.82 per 100,000 in 2017. Black youth under 13 years are twice as likely to die by suicide and when comparing by sex, Black males, 5 to 11 years, are more likely to die by suicide compared to their White peers. Finally, the suicide death rate among Black youth has been found to be increasing faster than any other racial/ethnic group.
When examining suicidal ideation and behavior results have been mixed. Nonetheless, a new study using the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (a national school survey of adolescent health behaviors developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) paints a further alarming picture for Black high-school aged youth. That study’s findings indicated that suicide attempts rose by 73% between 1991-2017 for Black adolescents (boy and girls), while injury by attempt rose by 122% for Black adolescent boys during that time period. This would suggest that Black males are engaging in more lethal means when attempting suicide. Although Black youth have historically not been considered at high risk for suicide or suicidal behaviors, current trends suggest the contrary.
The intention of this report is to raise awareness; provide an overview on the existing body of research; identify gaps in research, policy and practice; highlight best practices for practitioners; and create a resource document for all who come into contact with Black youth in healthcare, schools and other settings. The work of this Taskforce, in partnership with the CBC, will be ongoing and will include legislation; demonstration projects; regional roundtables; trainings; and engagement of policy makers on the federal, state and local levels. Most importantly, the Taskforce would like for this report to serve as a vital resource for the parents and caregivers of Black youth.”