After a recent shocking report revealing a near doubling in suicide rates for African-American children, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) is calling on President Barack Obama to focus on the issue.
Cleaver is asking the president to create a task force between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Education.
“Suicide is truly a tragedy for any family it affects,” said Cleaver in a statement Thursday. “There is something especially saddening and shocking when very young children, between the ages of 5 and 11, take their own lives.
“I urge the president and his Cabinet to identify proposals that health care and education providers can implement to deal with this heart-wrenching crisis, and to prevent further loss of life,” the Missouri congressman, who is also a Methodist pastor, continued.
The study, “Suicide Trends Among Elementary School-Aged Children in the United States From 1993 to 2012,” published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, revealed that the suicide rate among African-American children has almost doubled in the last two decades.
The study also revealed that suicides by hanging roughly tripled among black boys while remaining virtually unchanged for whites. From 1993 to 2012, there were 657 suicides among children ages 5-11. Most were age 10 or 11. The rate during the years studied was just over 1 per 1 million children. But for black boys, it edged up from less than 2 per 1 million to almost 3.5 per 1 million.
"Overall, the suicide rate was stable over the nearly 20-year period, yet the rate among black children significantly rose, while the rate among white children dropped," noted Time magazine.
The study can be seen here.
The text of Cleaver’s letter to the president is below:
Dear President Obama:
According to a recently released study, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, the suicide rate among African-American children has almost doubled in the last two decades. It was the first time a national study found a higher suicide rate for blacks than for whites of any age group. This groundbreaking study has stunned researchers and demonstrates that African-American children are more likely to be exposed to violence and traumatic stress, which in part, can increase the risk of depression, impulsive aggression and suicide. This study also revealed that suicides by hanging roughly tripled among black boys, while remaining virtually unchanged for white children. The study noted that from 1993 through 2012, there were 657 suicides among children aged 5 through 11. The rate during the years studied was just over 1 per million children. While there was a decline among white boys, the rate edged up from less than 2 per million to almost 3.5 per million for black boys.
Due to the severity of these findings, I am urging you to direct the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Department of Education (ED) to come together and create a joint task force to address this issue of increased suicides among black children and determine what needs to be done in the medical and education community to address this issue. Additionally, I am requesting that this proposed task force develop proposals that health care and education providers can implement to deal with this crisis, which would hopefully include increased mental health screening.
It is critical that the CDC and ED respond to these troublesome findings with the utmost urgency. The health and well-being of our pre-adolescent constituencies is a crucial component to the overall safety of our country. I am hopeful that CDC and ED will work to curtail the number of increased suicides among African-American children.
I appreciate your attention to this important matter and if I can be of any assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me in my Washington D.C. office at (202) 225-4535.
Emanuel Cleaver, II
Member of Congress