The suicide rate for elementary-school aged children appears to be flattening, but a study posted Monday on the JAMA Pediatrics website found those numbers hide an increased rate among young black boys while fewer white boys are committing suicide.
Led by researchers at the Ohio State University College of Medicine and Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, the study used Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data from 1993 and 2012. They found that 647 children had committed suicide during the period studied.
This included 160 suicides between 1993 and 1997, and 155 between 2008 and 2012. But for the same periods, the suicide deaths among white children fell from 122 to 84, and grew among black children from 30 to 59. For boys, the suicide rate fell for whites to 1.31 per 1 million from 1.96, while the rate for black youth went up to 3.47 per million from 1.78.
Researchers noted that while this was happening, the rates for suicide by firearms for white boys decreased to 0.31 per million from 0.71, as the suicide by hanging or suffocation among black boys increased to 3.22 per million from 1.14. There were no corresponding changes in hanging-suffocation death among white boys or firearm-associated suicides among black boys.
For the 2008-2012 period, hanging or suffocation accounted for 129 suicides among all groups, followed by 20 by firearm and six by other methods such as poisoning or falling.
Adolescents have much higher suicide rates in general, so there is some speculation that this could explain at least some of the increase among black males since they have a higher rate of early onset puberty.