One in 10 youth locked up in juvenile detention has experienced suicidal thoughts in the last six months, according to sobering new findings published by the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (PDF). The article is the latest installment in a series from the Northwestern Juvenile Project examining the mental health of youth at Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center in Chicago.
The findings may shed some light on other troubling trends about young people’s experiences in juvenile detention, where the youth commit suicide at two to four times the national rate of youth in the general population.
According to researchers’ findings, not only had 10 percent of youth had thoughts of suicide, 11 percent had attempted suicide at least once. The average age of kids’ first suicide attempt was 12.7 years. Whites are at a higher risk than youth of color for committing suicide. White males were more than two times more likely as black males and five times more likely than Latino males to tell someone about their suicidal thoughts. But researchers also found that Latino and black males were far more likely than others to have thoughts of “death and dying” in the last six months.
Write the report authors (PDF):
It is unclear whether and how concern about death among African American and Hispanic males is related to risk for suicide. Some studies suggest that such concern may result from a greater likelihood of having lost siblings and peers to violent death as compared to non-Hispanic white males. These findings also may reflect an awareness of a heightened risk of mortality. Among the Cook County sample, African-American and Hispanic males had a substantially greater risk of an early violent death than non-Hispanic males.