Category

Suicide Prevention

What’s Behind the Rise in Self-Reported Suicide Attempts among Black Teens?

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By Michael A. Lindsey, PhD, MSW, MPH, Executive Director of the McSilver Institute for Poverty Policyand Research at New York University

Amid all the recent headlines about suicidal behavior among young people is an alarming trend that is in danger of being overlooked: a rise in self-reported suicide attempts among Black teenagers over the past generation. This was among the findings of our national study published in the November 2019 issue of Pediatrics. Self-reported attempts rose in Black teenagers ages 12-18, even as they fell or saw no significant trend in white, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native teenagers.

In fact, the data that the study was based on reveals that attempts in Black teens rose an alarming 73 percent during that time period. This is while attempts fell 7.5 percent in White adolescents.Whatever is driving overall teen suicide attempt self-reports down has clearly missed Black teenagers. We suspect this relates to the fact that Black youth access mental health treatment less often than youth in other groups. At play may be greater rates of poverty and adverse childhood experiences; implicit racial bias; and the role of stigma in acknowledging mental health problems.

Suicidality can stem from untreated depression, yet our research shows that engagement in depression treatments are lower for Black adolescents than for White teens. The Making Connections Intervention, which NYU McSilver researchers are studying under a research grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, is devised to address such barriers to engagement, in youth, as well as their caregivers. As well, we advocate for more mental health service providers in schools, proportionate to the student population. Too many schools in under-resourced communities of color have too few service providers to care for students. Our children deserve better.

About Michael Lindsey

Dr. Lindsey is a child and adolescent mental health services researcher, and is particularly interested in the prohibitive factors that lead to unmet mental health need among vulnerable youth with serious psychiatric illnesses, including depression. He became Executive Director of the McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research and Constance and Martin Silver Professor of Poverty Studies at NYU Silver School of Social Work in September 2016. Dr. Lindsey was previously an Associate Professor at NYU Silver.

Prior to joining NYU Silver in 2014, Dr. Lindsey was an Associate Professor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work and concurrently a Faculty Affiliate at the University of Maryland Department of Psychiatry’s Center for School Mental Health.

Dr. Lindsey holds a PhD in social work and MPH from the University of Pittsburgh; an MSW from Howard University; and a BA in sociology from Morehouse College. He also completed a two-year postdoctoral fellowship in public health at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University.

Task Force Studies Black Youth Suicide

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Members of the Congressional Black Caucus Emergency Task Force workgroup on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health on which The Steve Fund is represented led a study on suicide and suicide attempts in black youth. Dr. Michael Lindsey, Dr. Sean Joe, and Dr. Arielle Sheftall co-authored the report.

To view the published paper, click here

Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey reacted to the report via Al Sharpton’s Politics Nation on MSNBC over the weekend.

See video below:

In May 2019, The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) launched an Emergency Task Force on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health to bring attention to the rising suicide rate among black children and to identify legislative recommendations.

Dr. Annelle Primm, Senior Medical Director, represents The Steve Fund on a working group of experts and stakeholders that supports this new task force.

Dr. Sean Joe, a co-author of the paper on suicide and suicide attempts in black youth, was a speaker and collaborator on The Steve Fund’s YGAR Conference Series at Washington University in St. Louis in 2016.

Resource

The Steve Fund has created ​a special keyword, STEVE, that young people of color can text to 741741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor 24/7. ​ The Fund views text messaging as a key component of its strategy towards addressing the unmet mental health needs of college and university students of color.​ Through its partnership with the Crisis Text Line, the Fund promotes text messaging as a means to improve the critically needed access for young people of color to crisis counseling.

Text STEVE to 741741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.

What you can do

  1. If you are a young person of color who is feeling stressed, depressed, or anxious, please know you can text STEVE to 741741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor 24/7.
  2. If you know young persons of color who are feeling stressed, depressed, or anxious, please let them know they can text STEVE to 741741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor 24/7.

Self-Care Blog: Raising Awareness about Suicide Prevention

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Every September we observe Suicide Prevention Month. It is a time to learn as much as we can about this alarming public health issue—most often related to mental illness. And it is also a time to listen, to offer help, and to eliminate stigmas around suicidal thoughts and seeking support.

Recent statistics suggest that suicide is on the rise among young people ages 15 to 24 years old, as are incidents of suicidal thoughts. Suicide rates are much higher for some population segments such as American Indians/Alaska Natives and rising for others such as young black males.  Despite the mental stress from dealing with persistent racism, discrimination and exclusion, young people of color are half as likely than the general population to get the mental health care they need. Mental health services, social support, and connectedness are just a few of the approaches that can help prevent suicide.

At The Steve Fund, we want to provide all young people of color with support resources that help meet these specific needs. That’s why we have partnered with some of the most innovative tech solutions, including:

  • Anytime, anywhere, text STEVE to 741741 and a live, trained Crisis Counselor will respond. Whether you’re feeling down, stressed or overwhelmed, this service is specifically designed to help meet the unique needs of young people of color.
  • There’s always someone to talk to via our partnership with the 7Cups platform. Young people of color can find support, therapy or simply someone to speak to.

We also want to share a few reminders to help you deal with challenges and thoughts that may weigh heavily on you.

  • There is no shame in seeking help for mental health concerns. We often hear messages to stay “strong,” but it is important to be honest with ourselves when we or people we care about are thinking in a self-destructive way.  Taking care of ourselves by getting help from a health professional is a priority.
  • If it feels important, then it is important. Whether you are listening to someone around you or dealing with your own thoughts, recognize that suicidal thoughts are serious and deserve your attention.
  • Listen openly, without judgment. One of the most important ways we can help prevent suicide is by listening, accepting what we hear and showing that we care by helping people get the help they need.

On behalf of everyone at The Steve Fund, I invite you to commemorate Suicide Prevention Month with us by taking the time to listen. You never know when someone may need your help.

Be well,


Anuja Khemka
Executive Director