Rates of suicide in Black youth have been rising and show an alarming reality. In 2019, about 15% of Black high school students made a plan on how they would attempt suicide and almost 12% of Black students attempted one or more times that year. Between 2019 and 2020, suicide rates increased 4% among Black people.
Although there is limited research on the causes behind this increase, we do know that this population has many unique protective factors that can help peers, providers, and parents’ opportunities to help youth at risk. Protective factors are characteristics or behaviors that can reduce the risk of suicide.
Religious Identity - Having a faith-based community that serves as a support system to an individual is a valuable protective factor for youth. Black adolescents who used collaborative religious coping (the individual and God work together to solve problems) were more likely to attend church, were more active in church, tended to feel less hopeless and reported more reasons for wanting to live. Mental health advocacy in religious institutions can aid youth in finding a safe space and get connected to resources.
Family Connection - The quality of the parent-child relationship has shown to be another strong protective factor for this population. Research shows when Black youth reported having increased parental support, they were less likely to report suicidal ideations and attempts. Having a good relationship with a parent includes open communication so youth can open up about ideation and receive help in earlier stages to prevent further attempts.
Ethnic Identity - Teaching kids about their racial identity in our society can serve as a protective factor if shared positively. Discussing positive messages about one’s racial and ethnic background has shown to increase a child’s tolerance and resilience to stressful situations. This can include parent-child conversations, messages around schools and religious spaces, and utilizing culturally-adapted suicide prevention programs.
To learn more about minority mental health and resources for people of color, visit On Our Sleeves.
If you or your child need immediate help due to having suicidal thoughts, call the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988. Youth of color can text the Crisis Text Line "STEVE" to 741-741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor 24/7. If there is an immediate safety concern, call 911 or go the nearest emergency room.
Fatimah Masood is a Behavioral Health Suicide Prevention Specialist at Nationwide Children's Hospital. Fatimah Masood serves as the Caring Contacts comanager for the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research (CSPR) at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Her work includes following up with youth at risk of suicide and their families after a hospital discharge via evidence-based interventions to enhance continuity of care and achieve best outcomes. Fatimah is also a diversity and inclusion committee member for the community based behavioral health team, a member of the Franklin County Suicide Prevention Coalition Communications Action team, a call-taker and trainer at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a Mental Health taskforce member at the Noor Islamic Community Center and a freelance artist.
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