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Today we’re spending time with a New York high school student going through the pandemic and discussing higher suicide rates among black children.
The path of a high school student
My colleagues Eliza Shapiro and Gabriela Bhaskar spent six months with Genesis Duran, one of the more than one million students in New York who lived through the pandemic.
When in-person school ceased in March 2020, Genesis was in grade two. During the pandemic, she helped her younger sister, Maia, manage kindergarten, while trying to get through the most defining year of her own college life.
Last spring, the girls delayed their return to school because their mother was worried about the virus. Distance learning was difficult.
“In front of a screen, it gets worse every day,” Genesis said in March.
To help Maia learn to read and keep her busy, Genesis would record voice memos of herself reading stories. Genesis often moved Maia’s desk closer to her bedroom during class, in case her sister needed help.
“I have to keep in mind that I am not his mother, I am his sister,” Genesis said.
Over the summer, his neighborhood – Washington Heights – opened up, thanks to vaccines. As the days warmed up, Genesis and his friends roamed the city, diving into different neighborhoods with the swipe of a MetroCard.
“That’s why we live in New York, to explore it,” Genesis said. “You don’t need the money, you just need to get on the train.”
The Delta variant quickly put its summer aside. As she struggled with crashing architecture classes online, she found herself sleeping in the afternoons for several days. It was as if all the responsibilities and stress of the previous 18 months collapsed at the same time.
This fall, Genesis returned to the classroom as a senior. To get over the back-to-school nervousness, she volunteered to start the class discussions and helped her friends through the breakups.
“From the start of the first day of menstruation we were back,” she said.
Now, as high school draws to a close, Genesis is keeping its eyes on college. She will be the first person in her family to attend and she wants to leave New York. Maia’s supervision prepared her to handle the heavy workload.
“I feel like the city is a big distraction,” she said. “I feel that if I stay, a lot of people will expect things from me.”
Here is the full story, which has more remarkable photographs of Gabriela.
A search for answers
Black children appear to be suicidal at higher rates than their peers in some other racial groups. But research funding and prevention programs have not followed.
Michael Lindsey, was the first person to document Trends in increasing suicide attempts among black teens, says suicide and mental illness are often viewed as a “white phenomenon.”
If you only looked at the raw numbers, this might ring true: white suicide deaths far more numerous those of blacks. Among adolescents and young adults, suicide rates stay the highest among Whites, Native Americans, and Alaska Natives.
But the suicide rate has recently decreases among these groups. Among black youth, it continued to increase: from 2013 to 2019, the suicide rate for black boys and men aged 15 to 24 increased by 47% and by 59% for black girls and women in the same. age.
These numbers are likely even higher for black youth who identify as LGBTQ
Today, lawmakers and academics are pushing for better research, especially in light of new evidence suggesting that black children may have unique risk factors.
Suicide screening questionnaires usually ask if people are having thoughts of suicide or planning to harm themselves. But a published study in September found that black teens surveyed were more likely than white teens to have attempted suicide without first having suicidal thoughts or plans.
Their triggers may also be different. A government study conducted last year suggested that black youth who committed suicide were more likely than white youth to have experienced a seizure in the two weeks before their death.
There are also not enough black therapists: Blacks made up 13% of the American population, but only 4% of American psychologists in 2015, according to one. American Psychological Association Report.
Many black children face chronic stressors, including neighborhood violence and food insecurity. Researchers found that young people in very poor communities are more likely to die by suicide.
“You have to bring culture into all of this, you have to talk about racism, you have to talk about discrimination,” said Arielle Sheftall, a leading suicide researcher. “It’s something young black people go through every day. “
What else do we read
And the rest …
Tip: A Restful Mental Health Day
Since the pandemic, students have advocated mental health days at school.
Nationally, districts are extend the Thanksgiving break to give children and staff time to recharge their batteries. In December, schools in Detroit will go remote control on Friday in part to address mental health issues.
As Mental Health Days multiply, my colleagues in the Well office asked readers how they made their free time feel useful. Many shared their adult strategies. Holly Roberson, in Berkeley, Calif., Donated one for a child.
“My football-obsessed 13-year-old son asked to skip school for a mental health day,” Holly wrote. “He spent the day in bed, sipping hot chocolate and working on a script for a musical. He said it was the happiest day of his life.
That’s it for this newsletter. Hope you have a happy Thanksgiving and see you next week!
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