The most common methods of suicide among young people are hanging, strangling and choking, which is also reflected in this study, Dr Sheftall said. Previous reviews of suicide methodology have suggested that women are more likely to attempt suicide using less lethal means, but “that may no longer be the case,” she added.
One of the limitations of the study was that one of the datasets contained only 35 states and did not include information on potential risk factors such as poverty, exposure to trauma, difficulties accessing mental health care or LGBTQ status and experiences of racism.
“The African American child’s experiences are unlike any other in the United States,” said LaVome Robinson, clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at DePaul University in Chicago who has studied suicidality in black adolescents. “We live in a society that marginalizes us – more likely than any other group – and has been for years.”
In the black community, suicide as we generally define it remains rare, Dr Robinson added, but the numbers may be higher than we think due to indirect suicide, she said, where teens deliberately put themselves in danger.
“The question you should be asking yourself is, ‘Why was their will to live so weak, or not strong enough, to prevent them from engaging in these very risky behaviors that could in fact be fatal? “Said Dr Robinson.
Certain protective factors, such as positive messages and a sense of pride in one’s racial and ethnic group, can reduce the effects of racism on mental health, said Kate Keenan, a clinical psychologist at the University of Chicago whose research includes racial disparities in health.
“If experiences of racism and discrimination increase at a faster rate as we increase protective factors, this could be related to the reported increase in suicidality among black youth,” she said.