The Suicide Prevention Resource Center reports that the rate of Black suicides is much lower than that of the general U.S. population. According to 2020 data, the suicide rate for Black Americans is 7.7 per 100,000 people, and for white people, it's 16.8 per 100,000.
However, with Black deaths more than two times more likely to be classified as "undetermined" compared to white deaths, West Virginia University researcher Ian Rockett believes the reported rate of Black people who commit suicide is significantly misrepresented.
According to Rockett, medical examiners and coroners repeatedly lack sufficient data to accurately determine causes of death among Black people, which affects the data on Black suicide rates.
Rockett said in a statement, “When there’s less psychological documentation, they’re more likely to be labeled as undetermined intent.” He added, “This leads to suicide misclassification.”
The Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities also suggests that Black suicides are more likely to be deemed "undetermined" because of the lack of information when investigating Black deaths.
Another study by the Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior journal found that words like "depression" and "anxiety" were common in white death investigations, while words like "questionable" and "no further details" were mainly found when researching Black deaths.
Risk factors for suicide including medical information and family problems were also more likely to be found when investigating white deaths than Black ones.
The National Library of Medicine reports that only a fifth of Black Americans who commit suicide leave notes, a number significantly smaller than the third of white Americans.
White men reportedly commit suicide at the highest rate in America, but the data is missing important context, experts say.
If you or someone you know need mental health help, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.