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Ohio study finds Black children twice as likely to die by suicide

Black children ages 5 to 12 are twice as likely to die by suicide as their white counterparts, a new study from Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus shows (Source: “Black children are twice as likely to die by suicide, Nationwide Children's study finds,” Columbus Dispatch, Sept. 9).

Research on suicide by Black youths is extremely limited and this study sought to identify the circumstances that arise when young Black people take their own lives.

"[W]e wanted to look specifically within Black youth only to get a clear understanding of what is happening within this population,” said Dr. Arielle Sheftall, principal investigator in the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research and the Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s.

Black girls, the study found, were more likely to experience a crisis with a boyfriend or girlfriend prior to death and died by suicide within 24 hours of an argument. Black boys were more likely to have experienced a recent legal problem and when compared with Black girls were less likely to have received prior mental health treatment, the study found.

Younger children who died by suicide, especially those 5 to 11 years of age, were more likely than older children to have experienced family and school problems. If Black children ages 5 to 11 were diagnosed with a mental health concern, it was more likely to be attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), according to Nationwide Children's.

“When implementing suicide prevention with Black youth, you have to start from ground zero," Sheftall said. "You have to figure out what the risk factors are for Black youth and then evaluate which prevention programs are beneficial or if adaptation of the prevention programs are needed."