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March 22, 2018

Suicide has not typically been thought of as a serious problem in the African American community, according to this article. But recent research shows that the suicide rate for Black youth is rapidly rising.

The article quotes several experts in an effort to explain this troubling trend, including Dr. Mia Smith-Bynum, associate professor in the School of Public Health Department of Family Science.

“The societal notion that Black children are not vulnerable or even human makes them confront race earlier.  The societal attitudes that our children are not actually children begins early. That our children are suspended more often even in preschool is one example of that,” Dr. Smith-Bynum says. “As children get more sophisticated, and as boys grow to be young men, they understand that when they were little and cute, they got positive treatment, but once they start looking like adults, it activates stereotypes that the nation has about Black people.”

She goes on to discuss how vulnerable adolescents in particular are to negative stereotyping, as children go through puberty and start to develop their racial identity. “Race is not the only factor, and it’s usually not enough to cause suicide by itself. But there are some kids for whom it amplifies issues that are already existing.”

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Mia Smith-Bynum