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The Hidden Crisis: Suicide Among African American Youth

Updated: Oct 20, 2022

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for Black youth ages 10-14 and the third leading cause of death in African American adolescents 15-19 as of 2018.

[1]Suicide rates increased 33% between 1999 and 2019, with a small decline in 2019. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.3 It was responsible for more than 47,500 deaths in 2019, which is about one death every 11 minutes.3 The number of people who think about or attempt suicide is even higher. In 2019, 12 million American adults seriously thought about suicide, 3.5 million planned a suicide attempt, and 1.4 million attempted suicide.4

The issue of Black adolescent suicide has gotten much-needed attention. According to a

special report published by the CDC, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) and the Congressional Black Caucus have worked to raise awareness and published a report, Ring the Alarm: The Crisis of Black Youth Suicide in America, released in December 2019.

The report asserts,

A growing crisis in the mental health and well-being of Black youth has been described in this report. The suicide death rate among Black youth is increasing faster than that of any other racial/ethnic group, with Black youth under 13 years being twice as likely to die by suicide as their White counterparts. Self-reported suicide attempts have increased by 73% for Black male and female adolescents over the past 25 years.[2]

One key factor may be the lack of mental health resources available to African American communities and families and the potential stigma associated with the need for the help of that sort. In addition, depression is a key factor and may have roots in the trauma of racism, among other things.

One of the critical recommendations of the report is a collaboration with clergy, faith-based communities, and organizations, fraternal and sororal organizations to raise awareness and promote mental health among youth and their families. A church may provide resources to its members and families in the community surrounding a church about Suicide Prevention to raise awareness and create opportunities for conversations that may lead to life-saving interventions.

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