Between the years of 1991 and 2017, instances of self-reported suicide attempts among Black high school-aged teens rose by 73 percent while the rates for their white counterparts declined by 7.3 percent.
The shocking numbers were uncovered as the result of a recent study conducted by the McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research at New York University.
“Further research must be done into why traditional precursors to suicide attempts, such as thinking about it or making plans, are decreasing while actual attempts are going up. It’s important that we identify the signs before young people attempt to end their lives,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Michael A. Lindsey, who serves as the executive director of the McSilver Institute and the Constance and Martin Silver Professor of Poverty Studies at NYU Silver School of Social Work.
Even more disturbingly, the study, which was published in the November 2019 issue of Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, found that suicide rates for Black female teens have accelerated at an alarming rate while the suicide rate for all female teens continues to decline.
“The number of Black youth who are tragically taking their own lives is rising at an alarming rate, and that is why I sponsored legislation to establish a Black Youth Suicide taskforce here in New York State,” New York State Assemblywoman Kimberly Jean-Pierre of the 11th Assembly District said of the study’s findings. “It’s vital for us to take action now to improve mental health and suicide prevention services to save these precious lives, and I applaud Dr. Lindsey and his research team at the McSilver Institute for shedding light on this very real issue.”
“The McSilver Institute’s findings of increased suicide attempts and self-injury among Black young adults are important and tremendously concerning, particularly for those of us who work in New York’s child welfare community where Black families are chronically, disproportionately overrepresented,” adds Judge Ronald E. Richter, CEO and executive director of JCCA and former commissioner, NYC Administration for Children’s Services. “We must address Dr. Lindsey’s alarming data with urgency. Further research is critically necessary to determine best practices for our work with the young people who will shape our city’s future.”
According to the CDC, suicide was the third leading cause of death for Black youth between the ages of 15 and 19.