According to a latest survey from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the rates of suicides is two times higher for black children aged between 5 and 12 years compared to white children of the same age. The results of the study are published yesterday (21st May 2018) in the latest issue of the journal JAMA Pediatrics.
Suicides among this age group in general are rare and when it happens can be devastating for family members as well as communities, the authors explain. The rates of suicides among the youth are on the rise and previous studies have shown that suicide rates are higher among white youths compared to the black. Jeffrey Bridge, of the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, Ohio, and Lisa Horowitz, of the NIMH Intramural Research Program, along with their colleagues in this new study looked at race-related differences in the rates of suicides among the youth. For this they used the data available at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS). This database provides information on fatal and non fatal injuries and violent deaths. They looked at data between 2001 and 2015 for two age groups – children aged between 5 and 12 years and teenagers aged between 13 and 17 years.
Results revealed that the suicide rates are twice as much higher among black children compared to white children of the same age. Both boys and girls showed this trend. On the other hand, suicide rates for black teenagers were half of what it was among white teenagers. Horowitz explained that they were surprised at this contrasting trend based on age groups. The results showed that 42 percent more black children committed suicide compared to the white children.
Bridge is an epidemiologist who directs the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at the Columbus hospital. He explained that this is the study that shows that suicides rates are not uniformly higher among the whites. “There is this age-related disparity, and now we have to understand the underlying reasons. … Most of the previous research has largely concerned white suicide. So we don’t even know if the same risk and protective factors apply to black youth,” he said.
They authors of the study wrote that they could not assess the reason behind this trend. They conclude that more work is necessary to understand the reasons behind this trend. They also wrote that more needs to be understood regarding homicide victimization and the factors such as accessible healthcare need to be kept in mind too. Horowitz said, “Gaining an understanding of these and other contributing factors may someday lead to targeted, culturally sensitive interventions and help reverse the trend in suicide rates in the U.S.” the researchers want to understand the role of social media in this alarming trend as well. Lack of mental health support in children could be another challenge they add.
The study shows that between 2001 and 2015, 1,661 children aged between five and 12 died due to suicide in the US. This means that at least one child below the age of 12 is taking his or her own life every five say the statistics. The rates have only risen in recent times. Suicides are the cause of 0.37 per 100,000 pediatric deaths, says Bridges.