20 May Higher Suicide Rates Among Black Than White Children
Medical Research: What is the background for this study?
Dr. Bridge: Suicide is a leading cause of death among children younger than 12 years. Suicide rates in this age group have remained steady overall for the past 20 years, but this is the first national study to observe higher suicide rates among black children compared to white children. Little is known about the epidemiology of suicide in this age group, as prior research has typically excluded children younger than 10 years old and investigated trends only within specific older age groups.
Medical Research: What are the main findings?
Dr. Bridge: We found that suicide ranked 14th as a cause of death among 5- to 11-year old black children in 1993-97 but rose to 9th in 2008-12. For white children, suicide ranked 12th in 1993-97 and 11th in 2008-12. Rates have remained stable in Hispanic and non-Hispanic children. The findings in this study highlight an emerging racial disparity in the epidemiology of childhood suicide.
Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Dr. Bridge: Parents and health care providers need to be aware that children under the age of 12 can and sometimes do think about suicide. It is important to ask children directly about suicide if you are concerned about a child. Research has refuted the notion that asking children directly about suicide may trigger subsequent suicidal thinking or behavior. Additionally, parents need to be aware of the warning signs of suicide. If their child is unhappy for an extended period, withdrawing from friends or school activities or increasingly irritable, then parents should be concerned about those behaviors and consider taking the child to see a mental health professional.
Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Bridge: We are currently working on a follow-up study to investigate precipitants of suicide that distinguish children under the age of 12 from early adolescents. We may need to tailor suicide prevention interventions for younger children if we find that the factors contributing to child suicide are different than those associated with adolescent suicide.
MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Jeff Bridge, Ph.D, Center for Innovation in Pediatric Practice, Principal Investigator, & The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital (2015). Higher Suicide Rates Among Black Than White Children