The suicide rate among African American children aged 5 to 11 years has increased substantially since 1993 and is persisting, according to Dr. Jeffrey Bridge, a leading researcher at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital. In 1993 suicide ranked as the 14th leading cause of death among this population. Today it’s the 10th leading cause of death—with rates nearly twice that of their White counterparts. While it is not intuitive and is difficult to understand, suicide ranks as a leading cause of death among all youth aged 5-11 years. Dr. Bridge and his colleagues are among the first to spearhead suicide research within this young population, and their work has revealed these concerning trends in suicidal behaviors among African American children.
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Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are the fastest growing population in the United States, representing numerous cultures, histories, languages and socio-demographic characteristics. While recognizably diverse, Asian and Pacific Islanders are not so different when it comes to their attitudes about mental health. Stigma associated with mental health problems is common in Asian and Pacific Islander communities. Shaming related to mental health problems is a cultural norm in some Asian communities, leading many who have mental health problems to avoid seeking help despite the need.
SAMHSA is focused on improving mental health across the lifespan and has worked with the National Coalition on Mental Health and Aging and the Administration on Aging/Administration for Community Living for over a decade to address the concerns of states, provider organizations, individuals, and families related to the mental health and substance use disorder needs of older adults. SAMHSA recognizes that older adults have needs that require special attention and training in order to provide the best care and treatment.
This week marks the first full week of Mental Health Awareness Month. I am pleased to share that we have started this week with SAMHSA’s 14th Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day. The focus of this event was on suicide prevention in our youth. We chose to focus on this issue because of the disturbing and unacceptable rate of suicide in young Americans. Suicide is one of the ten leading causes of death in the United States and the numbers who die by suicide have only increased in recent years.
There has never been a better time to focus on suicide prevention in youth. SAMHSA’s 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) showed that young adults ages 18 to 25 have the highest rates of suicidal thoughts and attempts of any age group. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meanwhile, showed that in 2017, suicide was the second leading cause of death among children, youth, and adolescents ages 10 to 24, behind automobile accidents.
I write this today not to provide a listing of programs that my agency has funded nor an update on how we are doing in addressing the opioid crisis. I write this as a physician seeking the help of my fellow physicians and healthcare colleagues around the country.
Many of you are very familiar with the efforts that we, in the government, have put forward to stem the tide of the opioid crisis. States and communities have done the same across the country. Our commitment is real, but it is also potentially futile if we do not have providers out there, on the front lines, willing to take on treating the population of Americans living with opioid use disorder.