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Mental health advocates: Continuing racial and social inequities driving up youth suicide numbers

Studies show racial and social inequities driving up youth suicide numbers
Studies show racial and social inequities driving up youth suicide numbers 03:30

TUXEDO PARK, N.Y. -- There are alarming statistics when it comes to suicide.

Studies show the rate among Black young people has nearly doubled since 2014.

Mental health advocates say continuing racial and social inequities have been driving those numbers up.

A mother who lost her son to suicide wants to make sure no other family ever goes through the pain she is going through.

"Darren, first of all, was my absolute favorite person in the world. He had a smile that would literally melt your heart," Deirdre Allette Asiema said.

Her son, Darren Clark Jr., was just 24 years old when he died by suicide in 2018. He had been struggling with depression and bipolar disorder since the seventh grade.

"Just how much I miss him and love him and I wish he was here," Asiema said. "And it eats me up inside because I think he did this to help me, when in reality it just made me worse."

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Asiema said she remembers one of her son's last text messages a week before he took his own life in their Bloomfield, New Jersey, home, telling her he didn't want to be a deterrent."

"He told me how he was going to do it, why he was going to do it, had to do it," Asiema said.

As she had for years, the doting mother got her son help by putting him in the hospital, where she says doctors prescribed more medications, which gave him access to more pills.

Looking back, she said she wishes she had shared her pain with others instead of mostly praying privately.

"He was going to heal my baby, and I think a lot of, you know, the Black communities, this is how we feel and not enough understanding of what mental illness is, and we don't want to be associated with that," Asiema said.

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One study finds suicide rates for Black males between 15 and 24 went up by 47% between 2013 and 2019.

For Black females in the same age group, it went up by 59%.

One study finds that among Black children between 5 and 12, the suicide rate in 2017 was twice that of their white counterparts.

"Every young person, especially if we are talking about Black and brown youth who may be at risk, should have a check from the neck up, and that really has to happen in the schools," psychologist Dr. Jeff Gardere said.

Gardere says Black children living in high-crime areas are more exposed.

"Working with a lot of Black youth, there is anxiety, there is depression. They just feel they have no one to turn to, no one can understand what it is they are going through," Gardere said.

That's why Asiema says she started a foundation in Darren's name to provide resources for those struggling with mental health conditions, and for their families.

"Part of the text, as well, was he told me to take all the money I spent on him and open a business that would help thousands of people," Asiema said.

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The Darren Clark Jr. Memorial Foundation, which was started soon after her son's death, has provided support for Tana Dupree's two children.

"Both of my kids have been hospitalized for attempts multiple times," Dupree said. "My youngest child has anxiety and depression, and through the foundation I was able to get both of them in therapy and it has helped them tremendously."

For Asiema, helping others brings her comfort.

"Because we know that not all pain is visible, so the goal is to actually bring the resources to people," she said.

Asiema says parents should also look for warning signs, Like falling grades, outbursts and self-inflicted wounds or bruises.

If you're in need of mental health support, there's help available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call 988 for the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

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