Washington University Study Shows an Alarming Trend in Suicide Attempts by Black Adolescents

Historically, Black adolescents were less like to commit suicide or to try to commit suicide than their White peers. This is still the case.

However, while suicide rates and suicide attempts have been decreasing in recent years, a new study by researchers at the Brown School of social work at Washington University in St. Louis, shows that the rates for Black adolescents are on the rise.

The authors state that “Black adolescents experienced an increase in rates for suicide attempts, and a significant increase was reported for Black adolescent boys concerning the rates of injury caused by suicide attempts. Adolescent girls from all racial and ethnic groups experienced a significant downward trend in suicide attempts; however, for Black adolescent girls, there was a significant increase.”

Most alarming is a the fact that for Black children ages 5 to 12 years, the suicide rate was found to be two times higher compared with their White counterparts.

The report states that Blac youth are less likely than their white peers to seek mental health treatment. They state that “lower rates of treatment could be attributed to Black adolescents not wanting to be judged as weak and refusing to acknowledge mental illness symptoms. Another explanation could be that Black adolescents view mental health treatment with skepticism because of mistrust of providers causing them to prefer to address mental health symptoms with family and peer networks.”

The full study, “Trends of Suicidal Behaviors Among High School Students in the United States: 1991–2017,” was published in the journal Pediatrics. It may be accessed here.


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