The Growing Black Child Suicide Rate: How to Turn it Around

PUBLISHED ON September 10, 2018

Black Boys & Men: Changing the Narrative | Episode 03: Preventing Suicide

Portrait of podcast guestGuest: Sean Joe, PhD

Release Date: January 25, 2018

“'s important to understand and focus on how black males are expressing their masculinity, the importance of them having safe spaces to emote, and to deal with their feelings, and their critical needs.”

This episode focuses on suicide prevention efforts geared towards young black men. Despite the progress that we have made, suicide continues to be a taboo subject in many communities, which makes it all the more important to notice the signs and symptoms of depression, and have access to support.

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Though suicide is relatively rare among children, and lower among Black people than it is for Whites in the U.S., the suicide rate of Black children ages 5-11 has doubled over the past generation. Suicides among young black children happen disproportionately in boys, and the rate is roughly twice as high as for Black children in that age group than it is for White children. This is among the disturbing trends driving the conversation in a recent episode of Black Boys & Men: Changing the Narrative, a podcast series presented by the McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research at the NYU Silver School of Social Work. Today, on World Suicide Prevention Awareness Day, this trend deserves renewed focus.

The warning signs may not always exhibit as depression, says Sean Joe, PhD, Associate Dean for Faculty and Research of the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis, who joined Episode 3 of the podcast series to discuss suicide prevention strategies for young Black boys and youth. “Anxiety is a very important predictor for suicidal behavior, particularly among Black Americans.”

His advice for parents and others: “If you find a black male exhibiting signs or talking in a self-destructive way—that they don't think life is worth living, that they feel that the world is against them— and if they are exhibiting any signs that are potentially signs of suicide and their behaviors are starting to change—they are starting to give away things and they're trying to isolate themselves in a very concerning way—you want to take those signs very seriously and consider getting your child assessed and connect them with a therapist.”

Learn more about suicide and how to prevent it here, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Black Boys & Men: Changing the Narrative is a 14-part podcast series bringing together thought leaders to analyze stereotypes and dispel myths concerning Black boys and men, and to discuss concrete steps to prevent and address many of the issues that disproportionately affect this population. Episode 3, “Preventing Suicide,” was originally released on January 25, 2018, with host Jayson K. Jones, LMSW and producer Briana K. Gonçalves, MA, both of the McSilver Institute. Michael A. Lindsey, PhD, MSW, MPH, is the Executive Director of the McSilver Institute.


The McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research is committed to creating new knowledge about the root causes of poverty, developing evidence-based interventions to address its consequences, and rapidly translating research findings into action through policy and best practices. Each year it holds the McSilver Awards, recognizing five extraordinary leaders transforming systems to tackle structural poverty and oppression. Learn more at and sign up for updates.