NEW YORK — November 18, 2021 — Suicide and mental illness are often seen as a “white phenomenon,” but a different picture emerges when looking at trends in youth, NYU McSilver Executive Director Dr. Michael A. Lindsey told New York Times’ Christina Caron during an interview published today. Titled “Why Are More Black Kids Suicidal? A Search for Answers,” the feature article explores why suicide attempts have risen in Black youth in recent years, but not in other groups of youth.
“I think the statistics are shocking,” said Dr. Lindsey. The article cited research that NYU McSilver has been involved in relating to trends in youth suicide behaviors, including a study with McSilver Faculty Affiliate and Assistant Professor at the University of Washington School of Social Work Dr. Meghan Romanelli in Prevention Science that examined what precedes attempts, and an ongoing pilot study that studies a depression intervention for Black teenagers titled Making Connections Intervention.
“I think the statistics are shocking,” said Dr. Lindsey, who was the first to document trends in rising suicide attempts among Black adolescents.
A 2018 study found that while the suicide rate of Black children 5 to 12 was low, it was nearly twice that of white children in the same age group. In one of the most recent examples, a 10-year-old Black girl with autism died by suicide in Utah in early November. Her parents said she had been subjected to racist bullying by her classmates.
Among teenagers and young adults, suicide rates remain highest among whites, Native Americans and Alaska Natives. But while the suicide rate has recently declined among those groups, it has continued to rise among Black youths. From 2013 to 2019 the suicide rate of Black boys and men 15 to 24 years old rose by 47 percent, and by 59 percent for Black girls and women of the same age.
Learn more about NYU McSilver’s mental health research and policy work.
Read about the Making Connections Intervention.