- Rebecca R. Bibbs CNHI News Service
#Suicide rates among #African-American adolescents are skyrocketing, according to “The Changing Characteristics of African-American Adolescent Suicides, 2001-2017,” a study published by a Ball State University health science researcher in the Journal of Community Health.
Jagdish Khubchandani, coauthor with James Price, a professor at the University of Toledo, said the rate of #suicides among #African-American #males ages 13 to 19 increased by 60% to 1,375 between 2001 and 2017. The rate for #females increased by 182% to 377 during that same period.
According to the Atlanta-based #CentersforDiseaseControlandPrevention, #suicide is the second leading cause of death for black adolescents behind homicide.
Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.
Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.
Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space. #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle
“Some children have disadvantages early in life, and I wanted to see if disadvantages continued later in life,” Khubchandani told The Herald Bulletin. “I think in general this society needs to think about how all these kids will live less than their parents. It just seems like some kind of a disconnect that we have so much good, but some children have to die sooner.”
Officials with the Anderson Center and the Indiana American Foundation for #SuicidePrevention did not return calls for comment.
According to the Indiana Youth Institute, more than 20% of Hoosier middle and high school students as a whole self-reported they had considered #suicide in 2016, the latest year for which figures are available. As a result, Indiana ranks second in the nation for reported #suicide ideation among teens, according to the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
The higher #suicide rates among #African-American teens appear to be due primarily to family dysfunction and lack of #mentalhealthcare opportunities, Khubchandani said.
“Also, the most vulnerable unfortunately will suffer the most,” he said.
Males were most likely to use firearms, at a rate of 52%, or to hang or suffocate themselves, at 34%, to commit #suicide, according to the study. However, at 56%, females tend to hang or suffocate themselves and turn to firearms at a rate of 21%.
As a result, Khubchandani said firearms in the home are the greatest risk for teens and, therefore, must be the greatest focus for intervention.
“Research has shown that 75% of inner city primary grade elementary school students know where their parents keep their handguns, and children as young as 2 years of age have the tensile strength to pull the trigger of handguns,” he said.
A second line of defense against #suicides among teens is ready access to #mentalhealthcare, Khubchandani said. According to the CDC, about 15% of Americans have #mentalhealthdisorders.
“Schools are the leading provider of #mentalhealthservices for youth,” he said. “Thus, there needs to be a greater emphasis on urban public schools providing adequate screening, treatment and referral services for adolescents with #mentalhealth disorders. Schools want to provide money for metal detectors and security but won’t spend money on a school counselor.”
However, Khubchandani admitted, there also may be cultural barriers among some American subcultures, including Asians and African Americans, that can prevent them from seeking treatment.
“Some families, still, especially with the male child, see that as a weakness, which makes it difficult to address those issues,” he said.
James Burgess, president of the Madison County chapter of the NAACP, said he believes #suicide, indeed, is on the upswing among #African-American teens, but it’s economics more than culture that influences their ability to receive treatment. Many have no way to pay for treatment or transportation to get there, he said.
“I hear that argument. But who can afford a $100-an-hour psychiatrist?” he said.
Burgess also blames the higher #suicide rates on an inability for black youth to see a path to achieving the American dream, the breakdown of the African American family and decreasing church attendance.
“If we want to be honest about it, we haven’t given them a lot to hope for,” he said. “They don’t think they will have some of the same things that their parents have, and they just want to live for today.”
The future for many #AfricanAmerican youth appears to be crippling student debt if they want to continue their educations, which will diminish their ability to buy a home and save for retirement, Burgess said.
“What is it that they got to look forward to?” he said. “All the special interest groups seem to be getting somewhere, but black people don’t seem to.”
#AfricanAmericans also traditionally received basic wisdom and life skills from a grandmother or other matriarch, Burgess said.
“Everybody had a Big Mama. Big Mama told you what to do. Big Mama had the experience,” he said. “Now interest groups are deciding what everybody needs instead of Big Mama.”
Turned off by mega-churches and prosperity preachers who become rich off their congregations, some younger #black people also are turning away from the church, a traditional source of strength and hope, Burgess said.
“To survive, you’ve got to have a value system,” he said. “It can’t be anything goes.”
Rebecca R. Bibbs writes for The Herald Bulletin in Anderson, Indiana. Reach her on Twitter at @RebeccaB_THB, or call 765-640-4883.