Rachel Cohen, Dr Aerial, Center For Suicide Prevention Research discussed on Here & Now

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Idaho has one of the lowest max nation rates in the country. Just forty percent of the population is fully vaccinated for npr news. I'm rachel cohen in boise. And now a difficult conversation about youth suicide. It's rare but also the country's second leading cause of death among adolescents research shows an increase in suicides among black children over the last decade and a new study shows the biggest rise nearly seven percent a year from two thousand. Three two thousand seventeen is among black girls around. Eighteen hundred. black children died by suicide in that time period. Dr aerial chef doll is lead author of the study in principal investigator at the center for suicide prevention research at the abigail. Wexner research institude at national children's hospital in columbus ohio. Dr chef doll welcome. Thank you for having me. Thank you for being here so this new study is building on research from two thousand eighteen. That showed that black children under thirteen are dying of suicide at nearly twice the rate of white children the same age. Can you talk about some of these new findings so this paper specifically looked at the trends of suicide and black youth only and we wanted to examine the trans by age group as well as by sex and what we found. Is that fifteen seventeen year olds had the highest increase present over this period of time we looked at which was between two thousand and three to two thousand seventeen and then also black girls actually experienced the highest increase when comparing two black boys and then we also found that there were some risk factors that were seen before death that were dependent upon age group as well as sex. These are some devastating findings. I mean the rate of suicide among black girls is increasing every single year and that forty percent of these suicides are girls between the ages of twelve and fourteen. They're barely teenagers first of all. Was this a shock to you. It actually was to be quite honest. We know in the field that males are more likely to die by suicide than females. But actually some research that was done by my colleague. Don rouge showed that the disparity between males and females was actually decreasing and unfortunately it seems to be decreasing even more and black youth specifically and that was devastating to learn. Your research found that there were some common factors among girls in these younger age groups. What is going on. Specifically in this age group that you're able to parse out we're still trying to understand to be quite honest what that all entails so the younger youth were more likely to be diagnosed with adhd and they were also more likely to experience family and school problems and crises so it also may give us some insight on what type of prevention programming we should be doing. What about factors for slightly older girls. It sounds like relationship. Problems are prevalent. Yes so the older girls were more likely to experience. Actually girls in general more likely to experience either a boyfriend or girlfriend crisis and then not only that they were more likely to die by suicide within twenty four hours of an argument so you talked a little bit about some of the limitations but we do know that issues like broken relationships and family problems play a role but they've been around for decades as well as quite frankly the stressors of living in a racist society. But we're seeing the rates go up every single year. What is different right now versus the past. Well i think unfortunately we haven't done a really good job at looking at these trends in black youth specifically when we look at suicide in the research it's very much white youth and white older men and unfortunately that doesn't help us in terms of creating prevention programming for black youth and for hispanic youth and it might be that these trends. We'll obviously from two thousand and three two thousand four. We saw an increase so it might be even if you looked at the data beyond two thousand and three you would see increases happening in black you specifically however we have not looked at black youth specifically until now and it's it's very devastating because we are behind on thinking about what are these risk factors that are specific black youth. And what are the prevention efforts that we should be putting forward. You mentioned some solutions early on One thing being resources. What kinds of resources do we need. Yeah so i want to stress. That suicide is preventable. And i think it takes a lot of individuals working together as a team and order to prevent suicide when it comes to specifics. Number one getting the community involved is going to be very very important for the black youth so getting after school programs involve getting churches and other faith based organizations community centers even barber shops and beauty salons which has actually become a thing. So there's the confess project that actually is out of chicago. That is training barbers to be mental health. Insiders so to speak and just giving them. Those tools can actually save a life. Schools may not be the safest space for black youth and youth of color but community organizations can be that can be that pillar and can actually make intervention possible. What's interesting about what you're saying here is those are the mechanisms that have always been in place in black communities but this separation of that has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Yes it has for instance my church. We just went back to service just recently. Not having that support has been very difficult. Hopefully fingers crossed. We will be back to normal sometime soon but even if we have to do. Virtual gatekeeper training where we educate individuals. On what those signs and symptoms are that's better than nothing. What about inside of the home. What would you say to parents or caregivers who are worried about this. Who just want to be there for the young person whether they're showing suicide idealization or not. Yeah and i think that's a really important question number. One studying that foundation very early on in life is really important so having these really hard conversations but it can't just come out of the blue unfortunately because it's going to be taken as a shock to kids but extending that foundation really early on about just even silly questions so what if you could have a superpower. What would it be. What was your favorite thing that you learned today in school. Just opening the door so that they understand that you are a safe space and that they can bring these thoughts that they're having or these behaviors that they're experiencing to you and that you can actually engage with them in these harder conversations that will come along and then also knowing what to do when you have a child that is expressing those thoughts. There is the national suicide lifeline. There is a crisis text line so knowing what those are and being okay with calling them. If you feel like your kid isn't crisis and if your child is actually engaging in self injurious.

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