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Suicide Rates Soaring Among Black Teens

WEDNESDAY, June 26, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- Tragically, teens can be vulnerable to suicide as they navigate the emotional pitfalls of growing up, and a new U.S. study suggests black teens might be the most vulnerable of all.

Suicide deaths among black females aged 13 to 19 rose 182% between 2001 and 2017, while the rate among black teen males rose 60% during that same period.

The study also found that the methods black teens used most often in suicide attempts -- firearms and strangulation -- are among the most lethal.

"There are far more African-American adolescents attempting suicide than has been recognized in the past, and their attempts are starting to be much more lethal," said study author James Price. He's a professor emeritus of health education and public health at the University of Toledo in Ohio.

"When we look at research with these adolescents, we find that they report their attempt to suicide is a cry for help. Two-thirds of the kids didn't really want to die, but they're using the most lethal form of attempting suicide," Price explained in a university news release.

Between 2015 and 2017, Georgia had the highest rate in the nation, at 5.8 per 100,000 people. The next highest rates were in Texas, Florida, North Carolina and Ohio.

From 2015 to 2017, 52% of black teen males who died from suicide used firearms, a method with a fatality rate of nearly 90%. Another 34% used strangulation or suffocation, which has a fatality rate of about 60%.

Among the 204 black teen females who died by suicide from 2015 to 2017, 56% used strangulation or suffocation and 21% used firearms, according to the study published recently in the Journal of Community Health.

The findings show the need for improved mental health services in urban school districts, and the importance of getting parents and caregivers to safely secure firearms and ammunition in the home, Price said.

"If you can have those lethal forms of suicide inaccessible to them, then that period of crisis and not seeing the irreversibility of this impulsive decision will pass," he said. "And with adequate mental health services available to young people, you may actually reduce the chance they'll do that act again."

Previous research has shown that increasing mental health access in urban public schools could reduce suicide attempts by as much as 15%, according to Price.

"While that doesn't solve all the problems, it's a good first step toward reducing the problem toward severe self-violence," he said.

More information

The Mayo Clinic has more on teen suicide.

SOURCE: University of Toledo, news release, June 24, 2019

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