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Why Are Suicide Rates, 'Deaths Of Despair' Increasing In Communities Of Color?

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Suicide prevention experts and survivors of suicide attempts say the best way to help someone at risk is to start a conversation about suicide and help the person find the right kind of help.

Suicide is a growing crisis in communities of color, and has only been exacerbated by the pandemic.

While suicide rates in the U.S. decreased in 2019 and 2020 — mostly among white Americans who make up the majority of suicide deaths — rates for Black, Hispanic and Asian Americans continued to climb in many states.

Research shows that from 2001 to 2015, Black children ages 5 to 12 had a significantly higher incidence of suicide than white children of the same age.

According to preliminary state data, suicide deaths among Hispanic and Black Texans increased in 2020, but decreased for white Texans.

The CDC has also identified worrisome suicide trends for people of color. A May report concluded that "efforts are needed to mitigate suicide and its risk factors in population subgroups, which may include systemic and other factors that have placed increased stress on individuals who belong to racial/ethnic minority groups" and that more research "is needed to identify and mitigate causes of suicidal distress and enhance equitable access and effectiveness of prevention efforts."

What are the reasons behind the rise in suicide among people of color? What are the root causes and risk factors?

How has the pandemic exacerbated the social epidemic of “deaths of despair"? What can be done to reverse the trend?

What are the barriers to accessing mental health care in communities of color?

Guests:

  • Kiara Alvarez, Ph.D., psychologist in the Disparities Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital 
  • Sean Joe, Ph.D., professor of social development at Washington University in St. Louis
  • Jessica Sandoval, MD, clinical assistant professor in the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Division and associate program director for diversity and inclusion for the General Psychiatry Residency program at UT Health San Antonio

"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. Leave a message before the program at (210) 615-8982. During the live show, call 833-877-8255, email thesource@tpr.org or tweet @TPRSource.

*This interview was recorded on Wednesday, September 29.