University of Michigan Researcher Finds Alarming Increase in Suicide Among Young Blacks

Many studies have shown that suicide is less common among blacks than among whites. It is thought that blacks’ strong religious traditions have played a major role in making suicide a taboo in the black community.

But a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan School of Social Work finds that suicide rates among young blacks are actually higher than previous estimates.

The nationwide study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that 70,000 young blacks try to commit suicide each year and that 1.4 million African Americans have tried to kill themselves at some point in their lifetime. The study found that the suicide rate among young blacks was very similar to the rate for young whites and nearly 50 percent higher than the rate found in earlier studies.

Sean Joe, lead author of the study, is an assistant professor of social work at the University of Michigan. He is a 1991 graduate of the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He holds a master’s of social work degree from SUNY-Stony Brook and a Ph.D. in social work from the University of Illinois.

Not to be overlooked is the value of higher education in suicide prevention for African Americans. Professor Joe told JBHE that his research shows that “blacks with less than a high school education are 3.6 times more likely to attempt suicide than those who are college graduates.”