According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2020, one person died by suicide every 11 minutes in the United States. More make an attempt and even more ponder about it. For quite some time, suicide has been a widespread issue in America, but it’s becoming increasingly prevalent among young Black people.
Black people between the ages of 10 and 24 saw a 36.6 percent increase in suicide rates from 2018 to 2021. According to the CDC’s “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report,” the numbers jumped from 8.2 cases per 100,000 to 11.2 cases per 100,000. While a 5 percent increase in suicides in all people in the 25-to-44 age bracket was seen, Black people in particular saw a 22.9 percent increase. It’s the second-highest escalation by one ethnic group, only behind Native Americans, who saw a 33.7 percent rise.
There isn’t some sweeping indication that accounts for the rises seen here. However, there are a couple of reasons that could explain what’s going on. Traditionally, a large number of Black deaths have been marked as an “undetermined cause” by medical professionals. This is because coroners say they lack enough data to accurately determine the cause of death — no paper trail from a mental health professional. Also, to speculate here, it’s probably not unlikely that a coroner might be quicker to be unsure if the cause of death with little evidence is a murder or suicide when the subject is Black. There is a chance that with more people using social media and more openness with regard to mental health in the Black community, coroners are finally catching up.
On the other hand, social media has a deleterious effect on mental health, and while more Black people are open to seeking professional help to help ease their minds, it’s still very much a taboo and costly, seeming like a luxury to many. Even if more Black people sought therapy, a study came to the conclusion that the effects of things like racism mean Black people would be better served with specific, “culturally tailored suicide prevention efforts.”
It’s hard to put a finger on what exactly is causing this rise in suicide rates because there isn’t enough data to support concrete reasons. You could point to racism, but that’s something that’s ailed us since Plymouth Rock landed on us. Hopefully, with more research and medical care, this crisis will get averted.
If you or someone you know is struggling or having thoughts of suicide, help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK), use the online Lifeline Chat or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.
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