High rate of suicide among young, African American boys, data shows

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- We all know life has taken a toll on Americans in the last 20 months. But there is a group experts say is really going through it - young, Black boys.

The latest studies show there's been an uptick in suicides in that demographic, and now, advocates are hoping we can ban together and put an end to the suffering in silence.

"There's something going on in our African-American communities and we are not talking about it," Angelina Hudson said.

Hudson works day and night to help families impacted by mental illness, and the signs and symptoms associated with them. As interim executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Health Greater Houston or NAMI, she has seen a lot.

"Our young African-American boys, ages 5-12, the uptick in suicide is really grotesque," she continued.

According to the latest data, Black children ages 5 to 12 are two times more likely to attempt suicide than their white counterparts. NAMI, the CDC, and other mental health agencies said there are a number of factors contributing to hopelessness nowadays. Bullying, grief over losing a loved one, losing the lifestyle they were used to pre-pandemic, and social media pressures all play a part.

"I got to meet this standard. I got to meet that standard. This person is doing x, y, z, so I have to do that," Ebony Scott explained about the way his children have felt.

Scotts is very hands-on with his three kids, and has noticed when they've struggled. His advice to other Black parents? Walk the walk.

"Are we willing to go get the counseling we're encouraging our children, or we should be encouraging our children to go and get it? So it starts with us as parents, as adults, by leading by example, but then also taking our children to go through the counseling or the therapy they may need to get through what they're going through," he said.

Hudson says oftentimes Black boys who act out in school are miscategorized and overly disciplined. She believes all of us have to get to the root of the problem, so that every child - Black or not - feels seen, valued, and has space to process trauma or whatever they're feeling.

"Far too often when we see a child, I call it 'coloring outside the lines,' they're punished. They're placed in separate classrooms, in-school suspension. Alternative education programs, when really it's not what's wrong with them. The question is, what happened to them?"

NAMI Greater Houston provides free help and resources. You can call them day or night, insured or not at 713-970-4419.

If you or someone you know is considering taking their life, you can contact the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

For more updates on this story, follow Erica Simon on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Copyright © 2021 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.