The Changing Characteristics of African-American Adolescent Suicides, 2001-2017

J Community Health. 2019 Aug;44(4):756-763. doi: 10.1007/s10900-019-00678-x.


African-American (AA) adolescents (13-19 years of age) have disproportionately higher rates of suicide. In this study, to explore the nature of suicidal deaths and suicide attempts in African- American adolescents, we utilized the Youth Risk Behavior Surveys (YRBS) and the Web-Based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) database from years 2001 to 2017. The rate of AA male suicides increased by 60% and for AA females increased by 182% from 2001 to 2017. Suicides were the second leading cause of death for AA adolescents. Additionally, in 2017 alone, 68,528 AA males and 94,760 AA females made suicide attempts serious enough that they had to be treated by health professionals. Males were most likely to use firearms (52%) or to hang/suffocate themselves (34%) to commit suicide. Females used hanging/suffocation (56%) or firearms (21%) to commit suicides. The ten states with the greatest number of AA adolescent suicides (2015-2017) were: Georgia, Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, and Missouri. There is an urgent need to further explore the changing nature and epidemiology of AA adolescent suicides and to study for whom and under what circumstances interventions can reduce suicides and suicidal behaviors in AA adolescents.

Keywords: African-American; Firearms; Injury; Suicide; Violence.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Black or African American* / ethnology
  • Black or African American* / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Risk-Taking
  • Suicide Prevention*
  • Suicide* / ethnology
  • Suicide* / statistics & numerical data
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult