ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The rate of suicides among young African-American males aged 13-19 increased by a staggering 60% between 2001 and 2017. Furthermore, the overall number of African-American men committing suicide has risen considerably over the past 20 years. With these unsettling statistics in mind, researchers from the University of Michigan have concluded that racial discrimination is a likely contributing factor in many of these tragedies.
Overall, the study found that various forms of discrimination against any group of people can contribute to depressive and negative thoughts. But, racial discrimination against black men especially stuck out to the research team as a major indicator of suicidal thoughts.
Making matters worse, these racist acts don’t necessarily have to be overt or obvious either. Small, hostile interactions that African-American men deal with on a regular basis can add up on a psychological level and ultimately extract a heavy mental toll, according to lead study author and doctoral candidate Janelle Goodwill.
Goodwill and her team say their work is especially important because most empirical studies on suicide fail to account for the discrimination that African-Americans often deal with in society. Most suicide research projects tend to focus on other contributing factors such as job insecurity, health problems, or poverty.
Researchers used data collected on 1,271 African-American males. Each participant was asked if they encountered discrimination on a daily basis. Examples of such discrimination included being insulted, mocked, or harassed, as well as being treated with less respect than others or unfairly being considered incompetent.
Participants were then asked, in their opinion, the reasons behind these acts of discrimination. Their choices were: age, gender, race, body size, and ethnicity. Finally, each person was asked if they had ever seriously considered taking their own life. The resulting findings showed a statistically significant link between racial discrimination and suicidal thoughts.
“Results from our study offer a new contribution to the literature by upholding this relationship among a nationally representative sample of adult African American men,” Goodwill says in a release.
While there are some pre-existing mental health options for African-American men, the study’s authors stress that virtually none of these support groups or aids focus on suicide specifically.
“One viable option may include expanding current mental health interventions to include culturally relevant suicide prevention resources that also offer strategies and techniques for dealing with discrimination,” Goodwill concludes.
The study is published in the scientific journal Archives of Suicide Research.