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Suicide rates among Black teens on the rise

National

Carol Ozemhoya | OW Contributor | 8/15/2019, 11:30 a.m.

Thinking about how many people she knew who took their lives, there was a time Alleyah Getter wasn’t sure she would have any friends left by the time she got to high school, reports the Indianapolis Recorder.

Three had killed themselves, and Getter, now a 14-year-old eighth-grader, was beginning to have her own suicidal thoughts. “It was like feeling like there was nothing you could do about it,” she said. “Eventually it was like there would be a day you just did it. It just felt like pain was nothing. You couldn’t talk to nobody. You just want to be alone and see if you can get through it yourself.” Getter did what advocates and survivors encourage everyone to do: She talked about her feelings. She told her father what was going on and eventually became part of a church group that helps children, teens and adults deal with mental health issues.

Without opening up, Getter said, she doesn’t think she would be alive. “It kind of makes me feel happy that I actually made it,” she said. “There’s a lot of families whose kids actually did it, and they wish they would have stopped it.” A study published in May from the Journal of Community Health found that the suicide rate for African American teenage boys increased 60 percent from 2001 to 2017. It was even worse for girls, who saw an increase of 182 percent.

Suicide was the second leading cause of death for African American teenagers in that time. Those who have been impacted by suicide have their diagnoses. There’s bullying on social media, a harsh stigma for people dealing with mental health issues and so on. But these are disconnected anecdotes. There isn’t enough information about African American teenage suicides.

“That seems to be a problem,” said Jagdish Khubchandani, a health science professor at Ball State University and co-author of the study. “We need larger samples and cohorts over time to figure why this is happening with African American teenagers.”

Khubchandani noted that it’s difficult to do research on school-aged children, but the consequence is that it’s hard to draw sound conclusions about what’s behind the rise in suicide rates and how to help those who are thinking about killing themselves. The study mentions that most of what’s known about suicide, including methods to preventing it, are focused on White Americans, who have higher rates of suicide than African Americans.