PORTLAND, Ore. — New research shows that the suicide rate among Black children and young adults is increasing faster than any other demographic, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.
"It's heartbreaking," said Darryl Turpin, director of equity and cultural engagement for local suicide prevention agency Lines for Life. "It's the highest rising suicidal population in America."
The data shows a 36.6% increase in the suicide rate among Black people aged 10 to 24 — rising from 8.2 per 100,000 people in 2018, to 11.2 per 100,000 people in 2021.
"There’s going to have to be more efforts to educate and raise awareness in communities of color of what emotional wellness and mental wellness actually means," Turpin said.
Racism, bullying and trauma tied to violence are often associated with this increase.
Turpin said the rising suicide rate among Black youth is a product of some of the root causes of mental illness and emotional instability.
"What has occurred with gentrification, relocation, poor schools and lack of economic development and opportunities," he said.
Turpin said he learned from conversations with his son that suicidal thoughts can present in different ways.
"You might not say you’re suicidal but if you don’t care if you live or die, what does that mean?" he said. "Suicidality does look different in the Black community, our reaction and response to trauma is very different."
He said perspective on this problem is important.
"Viewing this not just as an African American problem, but a problem our entire community is facing," Turpin said.
Among actions being taken, Lines for Life is hosting a "healing summit" on Saturday, Feb. 11 at the PCC Cascade Campus to discuss suicide and what is needed to lower suicide rates in the Portland community.
Lines for Life also has a racial equity support line, 503-575-3764, where Black Portlanders can call and talk to Black staff members, among other support services. The national suicide and crisis lifeline number is 988.
Turpin said in his work with the community, he sees reasons for hope. Among them, he said he sees a growth in willingness to talk about mental health and a desire to reduce stigma about the need for support or treatment.
"My grandparents had resiliency, they told me trouble doesn’t last always, and I believe that now," he said.