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Study shows the alarming rise in the suicide rate among African-American boys

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A just-released study in JAMA Pediatrics highlights an alarming trend: the suicide rate for black boys aged 5 to 11 is much higher in recent years than it was in the 1990s.

The increase occurred even as the suicide rate of white male peers declined, as seen in a chart included in study:

Chart, Suicide rates among schoolchildren in the United States, 1993-2012. (JAMA Pediatrics)

Child suicide is primarily a problem among boys: among 657 children ages 5 to 11 who died by suicide between 1993 and 2012, 84 percent were male.

The authors cite a variety of possible factors behind the trend, including exposure to violence, "aggressive" school discipline, and black boys' lower propensity to seek out help:

Black children may experience disproportionate exposure to violence and traumatic stress and aggressive school discipline. Black children are also more likely to experience an early onset of puberty, which increases the risk of suicide, most likely owing to the greater liability to depression and impulsive aggression. Black youth are also less likely to seek help for depression, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts. Nevertheless, it remains unclear if any of these factors are related to increasing suicide rates. Other potential influences include differential changes in social support and religiosity, 2 factors that have traditionally been hypothesized to protect black youth from suicide but shifted significantly during the 2 decades in our study.

The study, based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, found that firearm suicides among children have declined — but only among white male children:

Although the decline in suicide by firearms could be related to efforts to reduce access to guns through enactment of youth-focused gun laws, changes across time in social norms about safe gun storage, or public awareness campaigns, this study found that the decline in firearm suicide was limited to white boys.

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