Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Suicide Attempts by Black Adolescents Rising, Report Suggests

Between 1991 and 2017, the rate of black adolescents who reported attempting suicide rose, according to a report published Monday in Pediatrics. This trend was not seen in adolescents who identified as white, Hispanic, Asian American or Pacific Islander, or being of multiple races.

“Examining trends in suicidal ideation and behaviors over time by sex and race and ethnicity allows us to determine where to focus prevention and intervention efforts,” wrote Michael A. Lindsey, Ph.D., M.S.W., M.P.H., of New York University and colleagues.

Lindsey and colleagues analyzed data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS)—a national survey administered to high schoolers across the United States—from 1991 through 2017. As part of this survey, youth were asked to report suicidal thoughts and behaviors; such questions included the following: “During the past 12 months, did you make a plan about how you would attempt suicide?”; “During the past 12 months, how many times did you actually attempt suicide?”; and “Did any attempt result in an injury, poisoning, or overdose that had to be treated by a doctor or nurse?”

The sample included 198,540 high school students. During the study period, the weighted overall prevalence rates of suicidal ideation, plan, attempt, and injury by attempt were 18.8%, 14.7%, 7.9%, and 2.5%, respectively, Lindsey and colleagues reported. While the analysis revealed that the rates of suicidal ideation and suicide plans by the adolescents trended downward over time across all sex and racial and ethnic groups, black adolescents experienced an increase in rates of suicide attempts.

Additional analysis revealed that self-reported suicide attempts increased at an accelerating rate in black girls (even as suicide attempts among adolescent girls overall declined), and there was a significant increase in injuries from self-reported suicide attempts in black boys.

“[O]ver time, black youth have experienced an increase in suicide attempts, which is the most prominent risk factor associated with suicide deaths,” Lindsey and colleagues wrote. They suggested that this finding may be related to disparities in access to mental health treatment and social factors disproportionately experienced by black youth, such as racial discrimination.

“Despite the recent increases in rates of suicide, black adolescents continue to have a lower suicide rate than white adolescents,” noted Benjamin N. Shain, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Chicago in an accompanying commentary. Nonetheless, he wrote, “the increases in rates of suicide and suicide attempts by black adolescents are concerning and should influence prevention and intervention efforts. Future research should be aimed at delineating the reasons for the increases and suggesting approaches useful for clinicians, schools, and leaders in charge of health care and social policy.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Mental Health Needs of Blacks Not Being Met, Says APA President.”

(Image: iStock/Stígur Már Karlsson /Heimsmyndir)

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