Study Finds Black Youth are Attempting Suicide More Often than All Other Racial and Ethnic Groups

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the second leading cause of death in youth 12-18 years old in the United States, and in 2017 alone, suicide accounted for more than 2,200 deaths among this age group.

October 14, 2019

(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the second leading cause of death in youth 12-18 years old in the United States, and in 2017 alone, suicide accounted for more than 2,200 deaths among this age group.

Previously, racial and ethnic disparities have been discovered in suicide deaths, however, racial and ethnic differences in youth suicidal ideation, plans and suicide attempts have not been examined in the last two decades.

A study, embargoed for release today in Pediatrics, examined racial and ethnic subgroups of U.S. high school adolescents from 1991 to 2017. Led by Michael Lindsey, PhD, MSW, MPH, of the McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research at New York University, the study found that over time, Black youth have experienced an increase in suicide attempts, while suicide attempts in all other racial and ethnic groups have decreased. For Black males especially, a significant increase in injury by suicide attempt occurred, suggesting Black males may be engaging in more lethal means when attempting suicide.

“Examining trends of suicidal thoughts and behaviors over time by sex, race and ethnicity allow us to determine where to focus our prevention and intervention efforts,” said Arielle Sheftall, PhD, the study’s co-author and principal investigator with the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research in the Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “Future research should examine the underlying reasons these changes have occurred in U.S. high school students and determine if current prevention efforts are relevant to all subpopulations of youth.”

“The epidemiology of suicide has changed over time, and rates are increasing,” explained Dr. Sheftall. “Studies like this allow us to start identifying some of the factors that might have changed and are driving these increases in suicidal behavior.”

Data for this study were collected from the nationally representative school-based Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) and included 198,540 high school students.

If you or your child need immediate help due to having suicidal thoughts, go to your local emergency room immediately, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. If you believe an overdose has occurred, call the national Poison Help hotline 1-800-222-1222.

Responsible reporting on suicide has the power to save lives. Click here for resources for journalists who cover suicide.

About Nationwide Children's Hospital

Named to the Top 10 Honor Roll on U.S. News & World Report’s 2019-20 list of “Best Children’s Hospitals,” Nationwide Children’s Hospital is one of America’s largest not-for-profit freestanding pediatric health care systems providing wellness, preventive, diagnostic, treatment and rehabilitative care for infants, children and adolescents, as well as adult patients with congenital disease. Nationwide Children’s has a staff of more than 13,000 providing state-of-the-art pediatric care during more than 1.5 million patient visits annually. As home to the Department of Pediatrics of The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Nationwide Children’s physicians train the next generation of pediatricians and pediatric specialists. The Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital is one of the Top 10 National Institutes of Health-funded freestanding pediatric research facilities. More information is available at NationwideChildrens.org.