Date: Fri, 20 Mar 1998 15:05:56 -050
Reply-To: The African Global Experience <AGE-L@UGA.CC.UGA.EDU>
Sender: The African Global Experience <AGE-L@UGA.CC.UGA.EDU>
From: Marpessa Kupendua <nattyreb@IX.NETCOM.COM>
Subject: !*Suicide rate soars for young blacks
Suicide rate soars for young blacks
UPI News, 19 March 1998
ATLANTA, March 19 (UPI) -- Federal health officials say the suicide rate among young blacks has soared since the mid-1980s.
One possible explanation, the scientists say, may be stresses faced by children as black families move up into the middle class.
Scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta say that from 1980 to 1995, the suicide rate for blacks between 10 and 19 jumped 114 percent, from 2.1 to 4.5 per 100,000 people.
The scientists say a total of 3,030 black youths killed themselves in that period.
CDC epidemiologist Tonji Durant says, "Our goal was to emphasize it is an important and growing problem in this community."
She points out that suicide rates are increasing among all youths, but much faster among blacks.
The rates of suicide among black children, between the ages of 10 and 14, skyrocketed by 233 percent, compared to whites of the same age group, whose rate of suicide increased about 126 percent.
The biggest jump was among young black men living in the South, the scientists say.
The sharp increase narrows a wide gap in the suicide rate between whites and blacks.
In 1980, whites had a suicide rate 157 percent higher than blacks. By 1995, the rate was only 42 percent higher, according to the research.
The study is published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Durant says, "We're not exactly sure what is happening."
But, she says, some of the problem may be linked to the stresses caused by upward mobility, which could result in the "loss of certain social support systems."
The researchers also believe that blacks may be adopting the "coping behaviors" of whites, who in the past were more likely to kill themselves.
Two-thirds of the youths killed themselves with firearms. Another 18 percent died of strangulation, mostly hanging. Firearms accounted for almost all of the overall increase.
Psychiatrist Carl Bell, who works with black children in poor and middle class Chicago neighborhoods, says he is not surprised by the findings.
He says scientists predicted as early as the 1930s that the rate of suicide among blacks was going to rise as they tried join into the white American culture.
Bell, the CEO of the Community Mental Health Council in Chicago, says that in upwardly mobile black families, children often feel like there "is no place for them in society."
They are caught, he says, between the poor black community and the middle class, and they are not accepted by either.
He says, "You are in a social limbo."
Another problem is the long-held "myth" that black people do not commit suicide.
Before the 1960s, he says, "It just didn't happen."
But now, there are more drugs, more guns and the strong social fabric in the community has decayed. He says young blacks feel as if they don't "fit anywhere," and they have no support if they become depressed.
Increasingly, he says, they are falling into despair so deep that suicide seems the only answer.
He says, "The whole mythology that blacks don't kill themselves needs to be shattered."