The most common methods of suicide among youth are hanging, strangulation and suffocation, which is reflected in this study as well, Dr. Sheftall said. Earlier examinations of suicide methodology have suggested that females are more likely to attempt suicide using less lethal means, but “that may not be the case anymore,” she added.
A limitation of the study was that one of the data sets contained only 35 states and did not include information on potential risk factors like poverty, exposure to trauma, difficulties accessing mental health care, or L.G.B.T.Q. status and experiences with racism.
“The experiences of the African American child are like none other in the United States,” said LaVome Robinson, a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology in Chicago who has studied suicidality in Black adolescents. “We live in a society that marginalizes us — more so probably than any other group — and has historically for years.”
In the Black community, suicide as we typically define it remains rare, Dr. Robinson added, but the numbers may be higher than we think because of indirect suicide, she said, where adolescents deliberately put themselves in harm’s way.
“The question you should ask is, ‘Why is it that their will to live was so weak, or not strong enough, to prohibit them from engaging in those very risky behaviors that could in fact be deadly?’” Dr. Robinson said.
Certain protective factors, like positive messaging and a sense of pride about one’s racial and ethnic group, can reduce the effects of racism on mental health, said Kate Keenan, a clinical psychologist at the University of Chicago whose research includes racial disparities in health.
“If experiences with racism and discrimination are increasing at a faster rate than we are increasing protective factors, then that might be related to the reported increase in suicidality among Black youth,” she said.