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September 01, 2021

‘We are in a state of emergency’: What’s Behind the Rising Suicide Rate Among Black Kids

Fight for Life, Indianapolis, INSource: WHYY – PBS | Repost Fight for Life Foundation 9/1/2021 –

It’s been a tough year for everyone — especially kids. Hospitals across the country have been reporting a surge in mental health crises among children. One children’s hospital in Colorado even declared a “state of emergency,” for pediatric mental health.

There are plenty of reasons this could be happening — from family financial stresses, to isolation caused by distance learning. But as you peel back the layers of what’s been happening with kids’ mental health, it becomes clear that the distress goes beyond the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, in a bombshell report released in September 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that the rate of suicide among those ages 10 to 24 increased nearly 60% between 2007 and 2018.

Mental illness and suicide don’t affect all people equally. For years, experts have known who is most vulnerable — for example, suicide risk begins to rise sharply in adolescence. It affects boys more than girls, though girls make more attempts. And in terms of demographics, white young people far outpace almost everyone else (exceeded only by American Indian or Alaska native youth).

At least, that’s what experts thought they knew. For Arielle Sheftall, a principal investigator at the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, the realization that something else might be going on — something beyond the conventional wisdom of who suicide affects — started in 2015 with a phone call.

“We were notified by a media outlet about a suicide death that had occurred in a younger child,” Sheftall said — a child of 11 or 12. “And the media outlet was wondering, has there been an increase in this younger age group? And to be quite honest, we weren’t sure.”

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