Young Black men are dying by suicide at an alarming rate, and childhood adversity and racism may hold much of the blame, according to a new study.

The study reports that one in three rural Black men said they experienced suicidal ideation or thoughts of death in the past two weeks.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for African Americans between the ages of 15 and 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Suicide is particularly prevalent among Black men, who die by suicide at a rate more than four times that of Black women.

“I think we often don’t look at where the disparities are and who the individuals most at risk are when we’re talking about suicide ideation,” says Michael Curtis, a graduate of the University of Georgia’s human development and family science department in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences and coauthor of the study in the journal Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology. “We just know it’s bad, and particularly among young Black men.

“Historically, research has not invested a lot of time and effort in looking into what are the unique cultural contexts that make certain men more at risk for suicidal thoughts than other men.”

The study found that growing up in a low-resource environment and experiencing racial discrimination during young adulthood makes it difficult to engage in healthy, trusting relationships. Strong feelings of mistrust and caution toward social relationships can lead to feelings of isolation, which in turn can prompt thoughts of death and suicide.

The researchers followed more than 500 African American men from their late teens through early 20s in rural Georgia.

At three separate times over the course of several years, the men were asked to reflect on their childhood, including economic hardships and traumatic experiences.

Some of the questions included whether they experienced physical or emotional abuse, witnessed a relative being abused, felt loved and special, had enough to eat, or had access to medical care when needed as a child.

The researchers also asked study participants about their feelings and beliefs about close relationships, such as trust in romantic partners, and concerns about being taken advantage of in relationships as well as how often in the past six months they had been treated unfairly because of their race.

Finally, the researchers asked the participants about depressive symptoms and how often they had thoughts about death or killing themselves in the past two weeks.

The researchers found that these childhood experiences with trauma, deprivation, and racism took a heavy toll on study participants’ mental health as they entered adulthood.

Read the full article about Black men's suicide risks by Leigh Beeson at Futurity.