Dr. Joe was recently mentioned in the article “Deaths of Despair Have Surged Among People of Color: New data shows another disaster unfolding alongside the pandemic. ” for his research on suicidology among Black people in the United States. Below are some excerpts from the article.
“Recent studies examining statewide data have found similar patterns, such as the Black suicide rate doubling in Maryland in the first half of 2020. “There’s nothing to suggest to me that these numbers shouldn’t hold up nationally,” said Dr. Sean Joe, a professor and suicidologist at Washington University at St. Louis. Over the same period in these counties, suicides among white Americans declined 15 percent, although this may not be reflective of a larger national pattern given that suicide rates had been steadily rising among white people for decades and the sampled counties included almost no rural areas.”
“Beyond research, public-health experts suggested that investments in counseling and psychiatric help would be key to reducing the suicide rate and defusing the built-up stress of the pandemic. “We have to have more capacity: more psychologists, more social workers, more psychiatrists,” said Joe of Washington University. There is significantly less access to mental-health resources among many communities of color and a stigma against seeking counseling prevents people who need help from getting it. Even when a patient of color seeks out psychological help, a 2016 study showed that therapists were 30–60 percent less likely to return a Black patient’s calls than if a patient with a white-sounding name requested an appointment instead.
If similar patterns hold through 2021, drug-overdose deaths and suicides among people of color could continue their rapid increase. In fact, some experts believe that the cumulative trauma from 2020 could cause suicide rates to increase even further this year, though it’s not clear whether it would increase for white people as well as people of color. “Once we get past this immediate health threat of the pandemic, all the complicated grief and stress that people are experiencing will begin to have much more impact on how they feel,” Joe explained. “I would expect to see suicide increase after the pandemic.”
Lack of timely data from all 50 states harms the ability of public-health officials to build strategies to arrest increases in the suicide and overdose rates, leaving them responding to statistics that are years out-of-date. “The government has to invest in national systems that collect this data,” said Joe. “I think it would make a significant difference in our ability to respond faster, to monitor trends, and to think about who needs help the most and what might be most effective.””
Read the full article, here.