*What could be so bad for a child aged 5-11 years, that he or she would commit suicide?
Your guess is as good as the researchers who study this.
But its something we would never imagine. Before we get to what the “experts” have to say, indulge me for a minute please. Just let me throw this out there.
This is what made me go, “Oh, I can see how that would happen.”
You know all of the stress a single parent can be under. Children feel energy. Sometimes they hear mommy and daddy fussing. A lot of times mommy is not happy. Daddy is mad. Sometimes we are short with our children. We snap at them when they ask the simplest question, because we’re having a bad day. The kid starts to think, ‘Maybe mommy and daddy would be happy if I were not here.’
Does that make it any clearer for you?
Yes, I ‘went there’ as I began to read up on this topic, and it is very disconcerting, to say the least.
Now, here’s what the experts have to say.
The same ones who have concluded that suicide rates among elementary-age black children have nearly doubled since the 1990’s.
And while suicide by any child is hard to wrap your head around, researchers also say these rates among white children have been on the decline.
JAMA Pediatrics conducted a recent study that examined statistics for children in the 5-11 age group from 1993 to 2012. What they found was that while suicide rates for the specified age group overall remained stable, for black kids specifically, the rate increased significantly (from 1.36 to 2.54 per 1 million children).
Yet for white kids, the rates fell (from 1.14 to 0.77 per 1 million children) during the same time frame.
Now this is not implying that the rate of suicide for children in any way equals that of adolescents and adults, but it is an important find because the demographic has been overlooked and under-explored.
It also demonstrates the reversal of a trend.
“Most of what we know is about depression in adult samples,” Dr. Shervin Assari, a research investigator at the University of Michigan Department of Psychiatry who was not involved in the new study, told The Huffington Post.
“The very important contribution of this paper is not because of its impact or the size of the problem. It is about trends,” he said.
Historically, it is black people in this country that had lower suicide rates than white people — across all age groups.
And the thinking among black people was, suicide was something that only white people did.
“It’s a very interesting but unfortunate trend, which suggests that’s not the case anymore,” Assari said.
“To our knowledge, this is the first national study to report higher suicide rates in U.S. black individuals compared with white individuals,” said Jeffrey Bridge, the lead author of the study and an epidemiologist at the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio to HuffPost.
What makes this finding particularly troublesome is that suicide is one of the only negative health outcomes that has not previously been associated with the black community. It has been the negative health outcomes like higher breast cancer, childhood obesity and infant mortality rates that have had a close association with being black in America.
And the complicated relationship between mental health providers and people of color does not help the situation.
Damon Tweedy, a psychiatrist at Duke University Medical Center detailed why, in his op-ed piece published in the New York Times in May:
Black people have often fared poorly in their interactions with the mental health care system. For example, they are nearly half as likely as whites to receive treatment for diagnosed mental health disorders of comparable severity. When black patients do receive treatment, it is far more likely to occur in an emergency room or psychiatric hospital than it is for whites, and less likely to be in the calmer office-based setting, where longer-term treatment can take place.
Still, no study can identify exactly why more black children are committing suicide. Researchers say it could be a black child having greater exposure to violence and traumatic stress. Or that child being more involved in aggressive school discipline and a higher likelihood of early onset puberty. These are all named as possible risk factors.
Bridge thinks that,
“Studies to determine whether changes in suicide rates in black and white children corresponded to periods of change in risk factors for child suicide are important next steps.”
Read more about this important study and the ensuing theories at Huffington Post.