CHICAGO (AP) — Black people are facing a combination of stressors experts worry could affect the suicide rate. Isolation, a shortage of mental health providers and racial trauma are some of the factors hitting simultaneously.
Black people suffer disproportionately from COVID-19 and have seen soaring rates in youth suicide attempts.
Mental health advocates are calling for more specialized federal attention on Black suicides, including research funding.
Counselors focusing on Black trauma are stepping in to offer free help. And Black churches have sought new ways to address the issue as the pandemic has eroded how people connect.
“There has been a lot of complex grief and loss related to death, related to loss of jobs and loss of income,” said Sean Joe, an expert on Black suicides at Washington University in St. Louis. “There’s a lot of hurt and pain in America going on right now, and you only are getting a sense of depth in the months ahead.”
Suicides overall have increased. The Associated Press reports, roughly 48,000 people in the U.S. died by suicide in 2018, with the rate increasing 35% since 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death among all ages. For ages 10 to 19, it’s second after accidents.
Suicide attempts rose 73% between 1991 and 2017 among Black high school students while suicidal thoughts and plans for suicide fell for all teens, according to a study published in November in the journal Pediatrics.
Black people are dying from COVID-19 at higher rates, leaving them to grieve more in isolation with restrictions on funerals and gatherings. Added to the mix is a national reckoning with racism after George Floyd’s killing, AP reports.