A recent study of Mississippi adolescents sheds light on an alarming trend among African-American boys. Among the teens studied in grades 6-12, Black boys were most likely to engage in self-harm, such as cutting, burning or biting, according to the University of Mississippi Medical Center:
“Often times when people think of cutting or other self-harm, they imagine a white girl. No one thinks of an African-American boy,” said Dr. Kim Gratz, a UMMC psychologist who conducted the study.
“This study shows that there are youth in different racial and ethnic groups struggling with this behavior.”
The study’s authors define deliberate self-harm as behavior that breaks or bruises the skin but is done without suicidal intent. However, it is associated with higher risk of suicide.
Understanding the demographics of deliberate self-harm can help health professionals target prone teens and develop better prevention programs.
The researchers surveyed 1,931 students in grades 6-12 anonymously. Students were from one of six Mississippi schools in low-income areas. Results showed 39 percent, or 751 students, reported they had engaged in some form of deliberate self-harm.
Of those, 53 percent said they did so more than five times. And 78 percent of the 751 said they used more than one method.
By demographics, African-American boys were the most likely to engage in deliberate self-harm, followed by white girls. African-American youth in middle school reported higher rates of self-harm than their white peers. In high school students, however, rates were higher among white youth, a demographic group that showed significantly lower rates in middle school
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