I’m going to talk plain so, pardon me, mean no offense.
But growing up, suicide was definitely a “white thing.” There were the Black people who committed suicide, but my main reference of that were celebrities who had overdosed or self-inflicted harm in some other fashion.
So my heart felt especially heavy when I read a New York Times piece this week highlighting the increased suicide rate of Black youth, and Black girls in particular. It really hit home.
A study published in May, for example, found that the suicide rate of Black males ages 15 to 24 years old rose by 47 percent between 2013 and 2019 — and by 59 percent for Black females of the same age — but it decreased in white youth.
And then there is a study that was just published this Thursday in the “Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.” The NYT reports out that the study “found that just over 1,800 Black children died by suicide between 2003 and 2017, and while most of the deaths were among boys, especially those ages 15 to 17, the gender gap is narrowing. The suicide rate of the girls increased an average of 6.6% each year — more than twice the increase for boys, the study said. Nearly 40% of the girls were 12 to 14 years old, indicating that this age group may need additional attention or different types of interventions.”
I mean if that just doesn’t knock you over. Eighteen hundred of our babies found life too much to bear.
Psychologists have put forward different hypotheses as to why we see the increasing rate — from A.D.H.D. to relationship breakups to problems within school or within their families and depression/anxiety. Among all of these, one theory struck me the most: racism and discrimination.
Clinical psychologist LaVome Robinson noted, “The experiences of the African American child are like none other in the United States. We live in a society that marginalizes us — more so probably than any other group — and has historically for years.”
I feel this 100%. My own story is full of low self-esteem, low self-value, self-hate — triggered by the pervasiveness of white supremacy. And I went to a Black-led school from k-12 and had Black teachers. So what is the fate of Black girls, like me, who spend around 40 hours/week in schools with teachers who don’t look like them, don’t know their cultural context, constantly being fed a curriculum developed by white supremacy?
I’m not saying this is the cause of the rising suicide rates, but I agree with Dr. Robinson, and other psychologists, that it must be taken as a serious consideration.
Because school is where our youth spend most of their time, there has to be more intentional work done by schools to address the increasing rates.
If your child is having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or text TALK to 741741.