Wellness Wednesday: Addressing the crisis of Black youth suicide

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — In this week’s edition of Wellness Wednesday, NewsChannel 9’s Nicole Sommavilla looks into an alarming trend among Black youth following research from the Journal of Pediatrics: a spike in adolescent suicide.

It’s a growing crisis psychologists and pediatricians are trying to address.

Brighton Hill Pediatrics General Physician Wanda Averhart says the rates of suicide in African American youth were going up before the pandemic.

A study I saw in the Journal of Pediatrics said that from 1991 to 2017, the rates increased 73% in African American youth, that is a really big jump. While the rates were going down in caucasian youth.

Dr. Wanda Averhart

Now, we’re coming up on a year into the pandemic, and it’s only getting worse. “Adolescents were 1.6 and 1.45 times higher to have suicidal ideations during the pandemic,” said Averhart.

Suicide is a leading cause of death. Risk factors include unmanaged chronic illness, depression, isolation, and previous attempts, among others.

So how do we address it?

Pediatricians like Dr. Averhart work to catch signs early with screenings during annual visits. Her practice starts these screenings at age 15.

She says it’s important for children and their physicians to build trust because it isn’t always easy for parents to break down the communication barrier and for their kids to want to open up to them.

“First of all, it’s very difficult, as a parent I know it’s very difficult and sometimes the parent isn’t that person that can break down that barrier. I tend to harp on trying to build a relationship with your healthcare provider from the beginning,” she said.

If you don’t have a general practitioner or the finances to access mental health, you’re not alone. You can always call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

If you think your child may be suffering from depression or having any suicidal thoughts, Dr. Averhart says you should call your doctor.

Suicide may be prevented by knowing the signs and seeking help early. Click here for resources.

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