Black suicide matters: Facts you should know

Photo credit: Shutterstock
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Suicide is a sad growing trend among young Black men. Because of the stigma attached to mental health care, in the Black community undiagnosed depressive orders go unnoticed by family and friends. Shockingly the biggest increase is among Black children ages 5 through 11. The latest CDC information shows that suicide among that age and demographic rose from 1.78 to 3.47 per one million. While the suicide rate for White children declined from 1.96 to 1.31 per million. During the four-year study that was completed by the CDC in 2012, there were 41 suicide deaths among black boys, and 73 among white boys.

The book Black Suicide: The Tragic Reality of America’s Deadliest Secret starkly speaks of this point. Authors Alton R. Kirk and Donna Holland Barnes state, “Only in recent years have Black people begun to recognize that suicide is a major problem for the African-American community. Suicide within this population exists in far greater numbers and for a longer period than many people realize.”

Some researchers point to the role of violence that Black children witness at an earlier age. This exhibits itself more in puberty among Black adolescents, who reach this stage at an earlier age than their White peers. Kirk and Barnes state in their book, “The young Black male that takes up a firearm and engages an opponent in a confrontation for instance has made a decision to put his life on the line. Consciously or not such a youth sees violence carried out in the name of respect as an acceptable way of dying.”

Facts on Black suicide

  1. The Centers for Disease Control reported that between 1999 and 2004, young African-American males had the highest rate of suicide.  This latter finding is consistent with research that males are more likely to complete suicides whereas females are more likely to attempt suicide. (
  2. The American Association of Suicidology reports of the 1,992 completed suicides among African-Americans that 371 of those deaths were by females.
  3. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported the following statistics for 2010:
  4. Suicide was the 16th leading cause of death for Blacks of all ages and the 3rd leading cause of death for young Black males ages 15–24.
  5. Although Black suicide rates are lower than the overall U.S. rates, suicide affects Black youth at a much higher rate than Black adults. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among Blacks ages 15-24.4 Since the Black community in the United States is disproportionately young, the number of deaths among youth may have a particularly strong impact on the Black community. 5. Black Americans die by suicide a full decade earlier than White Americans. The average age of Black suicide decedents is 32, and that of White decedents is 44. 6
  6. Caribbean Blacks had a higher rate of suicide attempts than African American Blacks. 9 On the other hand, another study found that among adolescent males, African American Blacks were approximately five times more likely than Caribbean Blacks to attempt suicide
  7. Religion: Orthodox religious beliefs and personal devotion have been identified as protective against suicide among Blacks. Participation in organized religious practices, such as church attendance, is linked to lower suicide risk in African Americans. Among Blacks with psychiatric disorders, religiosity has been found to delay age of onset of ideation as well as decrease the number of psychiatric disorders.
  8. Social and emotional support: Family support, peer support, and community connectedness have been shown to help protect Black adolescents from suicidal behavior.17 Similarly, positive interactions and social and family support have been shown to significantly reduce risk for suicide attempts among Black adults.18 Although emotional support from family decreased the risk of suicide attempts for both Caribbean Blacks and African Americans, the impact was stronger for Caribbean Blacks than for African Americans.
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