Researchers have found that rates of suicide among African-American children, specifically boys, have doubled since 1993. This surpasses the rates among white children (for the first time), which dropped over the same period.
In fact, the New York Times reports researchers were surprised to find that suicide rates among black boys ages five to 11 nearly doubled between 1993 and 2012, rising from 1.78 to 3.47 per million. All this while the rates among white boys of the same age group decreased from 1.96 to 1.31 per million.
Why such a difference in rates? Are situations different?
Please know that if you or someone you love is suffering from depression and thinking about suicide, you're not alone. The suicide prevention hotline (1-800-273-8255 or 1-800-273-TALK) is available 365 days a year, 24/7.
Listen in as Lanada Williams, LPC, joins HER Radio to discuss these recent findings and what can be done to control or prevent this problem.
RadioMD Presents:HER Radio | Original Air Date: June 4, 2015
Host: Michelle King Robson and Pam Peeke, MD
It's all about her. Her body. Her mind. Her wellness. Her sex. Her relationships. Her aging. Her beauty. It's HER Radio, starring acclaimed entrepreneur and women's advocate, Michelle King Robson and leading women's health expert, the doc who walks the talk, Dr. Pam Peeke.
PAM: Michelle, we are going to talk about something today that I know is really near and dear to both of our hearts. And that is we love young men and women and our youth out there and something that has made our eyebrows just raise and go, "What?" ifs the suicide rate and it has actually doubled. It's crazy.
MICHELLE: It's huge. I know. We see it on EmpowerHer every single day – depression and anxiety are always in the top 5. Always, every day, consistently.
PAM: Oh, yeah.
MICHELLE: So, today we have Lanada Williams is an innovative national certified counselor and CEO of Alliance Family Solutions. She is also a licensed psychotherapist who is going to help us understand why this suicide rate among our youth has doubled and is there a difference between girls and boys - men and women because it is such a topical issue and something I know our HER Radio listeners want to know about. Lanada, welcome to HER Radio.
LANADA: Thank you so much for having me on. This is a very critical topic to speak on.
PAM: So, what is going on? Why are these suicide rates rising among our youth?
LANADA: What I think is we are starting to see with youth that are between the ages of 10 to 24 that suicide now is one of the star leading causes of death. I think our youth our are overexposed to violent acts. You see a lot of things that are happening within the school setting which was typically a safe environment for our youth. We also are seeing overexposure to the internet.
We're starting to see internet addictions and different things that are giving that hypervigilience to something might be happening. Something is causing me to be anxious. Something is causing me to be depressed. And I think we are starting to miss some of the warning signs as to what happens between the differences between girls and boys and how they experience stress. I think sometimes suicide is definitely an indication of a larger issue.
MICHELLE: What is the difference between young men and young women?
LANADA: For right now, what research is showing us is that boys are more successful at their attempt. We view women as attempting to commit suicide at greater levels and that's because studies are showing us that women are exposed gradually to chronic stress and that when they don't deal with it and they aren't assertive and we are not teaching our young women how to be assertive and to talk about their problems on a continuous basis. They are overexposed to chronic stress. We see that with young girls and we see that with teens.
I think that it is very important that women show young women how to talk about their feelings in a very healthy way. Women are being overexposed to stress. Men are able to deal with stress on different level but they are being more successful with their attempts at suicide. But we see that women are attempting it more because they are not able to deal with stress because really systemically, with suicide, we are dealing with a larger issue. And that larger issue could be depression or anxiety.
MICHELLE: Right. Right. I love what you are saying about chronic stress for young women because we need to empowHer, like I like to say, empower our young women to have a voice and to be able to talk and communicate and not be feeling like they are going to be ridiculed or criticized because they are feeling stress. I think that happens a lot where we just – we are silent sufferers, I like to say.
PAM: I think that women really need to be able to – I think girls, and I think you said it, Lanada, so well. They tend not to be able to be more assertive and their own advocate. Instead, they kind of keep it to themselves. They oftimes will do self-harm. They cut. They get involved in self-destructive behavior and they kind of drag it out. These are all cries for help. So, help us understand – what are the warning signs? You mentioned them.
LANADA: Yes, this is a great question because I think that we – sometimes we don't remember that women that also have some kind of family history of another woman committing suicide within their family, they are at a greater exposure rate. So, we have to look at family history and we also have to add the access or the use of drugs and alcohol. The level of stress in their lives because women are exposed to more chronic stress over a longer period of time.
And also just having accessibility to any type of method. It can be having accessibility to pills, or something that you might use for self-harm. All of those things and overexposure to violent acts and just the way you are able to deal with stress. I tell my patients all the time that you want to have a tool box for how you manage your stress.
That is on a daily basis. It is teaching our girls how to go for likability but to go for being very assertive, but to be very clear you don't have to be aggressive to be assertive. But stating how you feel and be unapologetic about being and walking your truth in your womanhood.
MICHELLE: Again, I couldn't agree more. Let's talk about what the best way is to approach someone you love if they may be suicidal.
LANADA: The best way to go about understanding how to support a loved one if they are suicidal is to understand that that person's ability to tap into that helpfulness phase is something that is starting to dissipate and they are not feeling like they are worthy of moving forward. Really, it is not a way to solve daily problems or having solutions.
You don't want to quickly rush to judgment. You want to open your ears, listen, pause and really be present with that person. Let them tell you what is happening. Start to look for those warning signs of depression and anxiety and not sleeping. Having a loss of interest and wanting to do something different. We should all support our family members and assist in suicide prevention, too, by seeking professional help, and seeking a professional counselor.
PAM: That is hard to do sometimes. Isn't it hard?
MICHELLE: It is hard and I will say that – and maybe you can speak to this, too, Lanada – I know that some of our young women who are on birth control pills, for example go through horrible depression and they actually go through suicidal attempts because of the drug.
LANADA: This is true. This is true. Our hormones can play a huge role in our mood reliability. I think sometimes those family members seem to think that there is some shame and blame amongst family members. I think we have to avoid that.
We have to start talking about mental health in a different way so it's not stigmatizing and we're not isolating those family members. That will cause more of that isolation and depression and those feelings of anxiety. Really just being an open ear and seeking professional help so that you can support how to talk to a family member. It is always a great thing.
PAM: There is another issue, too, here and that is ethnically there are some big differences. If you look at, I think, in certain ethnic communities talking about mental health issues is not something they do. You mentioned the word shame – there is shame, blame and guilt. Why can't you get it right? And all the rest of it. I think you have brought up some amazing issues here.
This is Lanada Williams who is the CEO and Founder of Alliance Families Solutions. Her website is LanadaWilliams.com. To learn more about her marvelous work and this whole field of suicide in our youth. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us and HER Radio. I'm Dr. Pam Peeke with Michelle King Robson.
MICHELLE: You can go to LanadaWilliams.com to learn more. You're listening to HerRadio on RadioMD. Follow us on Twitter. Like us on Facebook. Stay well.