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Suicide by the numbers
02:30 - Source: CNN

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There has been a recent increase in suicide death rates among black children

More research is needed to explain the troubling trend, experts say

CNN  — 

There has been a disturbing increase in suicide rates among elementary school-age black children in recent years in the United States, and yet researchers aren’t quite sure why.

When compared with early adolescents, younger children who die by suicide are more likely to be black boys who hang or suffocate to death, suggests a new paper published in the journal Pediatrics on Monday.

“I think the biggest finding is that – even though suicide is extremely rare in children – children sometimes can and sometimes will think about suicide and make suicide attempts,” said Jeff Bridge, an epidemiologist and director of the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, who was a co-author of the paper.

“So that’s why it’s important for parents, pediatricians and teachers to be able to identify the warning sides of suicide in children and take appropriate steps when warning signs are present,” he said.

Children vs. early adolescents

The paper included surveillance data on suicide deaths in 17 states from 2003 to 2012. The data were collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Violent Death Reporting System.

The researchers obtained the data in the system on children 5 to 14 years old whose cause of death was suicide; this resulted in 693 suicides that researchers then examined and analyzed.

As suicide deaths among children are rare, the researchers noted that the suicide rate among 5- to 11-year-olds is only 0.17 per every 100,000 persons. Among 12- to 17-year-olds, the rate is 5.18 per 100,000.