Black boys between the ages of 5 to 12 are committing suicide at higher rates than any other racial or ethnic group, according to NBC News.
This latest data is provided by Dr. Michael Lindsey, the executive director of New York University’s McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research. Additionally, according to a recent study in the Journal of Community Health, the suicide rates among Black girls ages 13-19 nearly doubled from 2001 to 2017. For Black boys in the same age group, over the same period, rates rose 60 percent, NBC News reports.
Tragically, this is not a new or emerging trend. According to a 2015 study from Jeffrey Bridge, PhD, director of the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, co-authors, and researchers from the National Institutes of Health, the stable overall suicide rate in children ages five to 11 in the United States during the course of almost 20 years of study [between 1993 – 1997 and 2008 – 2012] obscured a terrible truth. The suicide incidence in Black children during the period nearly doubled going from 1.36 to 2.54 per million.
“These findings highlight a potential racial disparity that warrants attention,” Bridges said.
Further research found that of the 1,661 Black children ages five to 17 who committed suicide between January 1, 2001 and December 31, 2015, 1,225 [73.8 percent] were boys, and 436 [23.2 percent] were girls.
“Black children may experience disproportionate exposure to violence and traumatic stress and aggressive school discipline. Black children are also more likely to experience an early onset of puberty, which increases the risk of suicide, most likely owing to the greater liability to depression and impulsive aggression. Black youth are also less likely to seek help for depression, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts,” researchers concluded.
This devastating crisis caused Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, (D-N.J.), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Chairwoman Rep. Karen Bass, (D-Calif.), to create the Emergency Taskforce on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health.
Launched in April, members of the task force include:
- Alma Adams (NC-12)
- Emanuel Cleaver II (MO-05)
- Danny Davis (IL-07)
- Alcee Hastings (FL-20)
- Jahana Hayes (CT-05)
- Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30)
- Barbara Lee (CA-13)
- John Lewis (GA-05)
- Ilhan Omar (MN-05)
- Ayanna Pressley (MA-07)
- Frederica Wilson (FL-24)
Empire star Taraji P. Henson founded the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation in 2018 “to eradicate the stigma surrounding mental illness in the African American community with a specific emphasis on the suicide rate among Black youth,” the LA Sentinel reports.
Henson has joined forces with the Taskforce to figure out how to get our babies healthy and whole, and not feeling like they need to die when they’ve barely begun to live.
“I am here using my celebrity, using my voice, to put a face to this, because I also suffer from depression and anxiety. If you’re a human living in today’s world, I don’t know how you’re not suffering in any way,” Henson testified before members of Congress in July.
“It breaks my heart to know that 5-year-old children are contemplating life and death, I just…I’m sorry. That one is tough for me,” Henson continued. “So, I’m here to appeal to you, because this is a national crisis.”