Racial and Ethnic Disparities

Understanding racial and ethnic differences in rates of suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, and suicide deaths is essential for more effectively directing suicide prevention efforts. Racial and ethnic groups differ in their access to culturally appropriate behavioral health treatment, experiences of discrimination and historical trauma, and other factors that may be related to suicide risk.1 At the same time, our understanding of racial and ethnic differences in suicide and suicidal behaviors is limited by underreporting and other limitations in data collection systems.2,3

Rate of Suicide by Race/Ethnicity, United States 2009-2018 


Since 2009, the age-adjusted suicide death rate has increased for all races and ethnicities. For American Indian and Alaska Native populations, the age-adjusted suicide death rate increased from 15.4 per 100,000 in 2009 to 22.1 per 100,000 in 2018.​4


Past-Year Suicidal Thoughts and Suicide Attempts for Adults, United States 2018 


American Indian/Alaska Native adults are at highest risk for past-year suicide-related thoughts, followed by White and Black adults. For past-year suicide attempts, American Indian/Alaska Native adults are again at highest risk, followed by Black and Hispanic adults.​5


Past-Year Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors for High School Youth, United States 2017


Suicidal thoughts and behaviors vary by race and ethnicity among youth. AI/AN, Asian, Native Hawaiian, and other Pacific Islander high school youth have the highest percentages of past-year serious thoughts of suicide and past-year suicide plans when compared to other races and ethnicities. Among those races and ethnicities where estimates can be reliably obtained, Black high school youth appear to have a slightly higher percentage of past-year suicide attempts and past-year attempts requiring medical treatment.6



  1. Joe, S., Silvia, S. C., & Romer, C. (2008). Advancing prevention research on the role of culture in suicide prevention. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 38(3), 354-362.
  2. Suicide Prevention Resource Center. (2018). Suicide surveillance strategies for American Indian and Alaska Native communities. Waltham, MA: Education Development Center, Inc.
  3. ​Rockett, I. R., Wang, S., Stack, S., De Leo, D., Frost, J. L., Ducatman, A. M., . . . Kapusta, N. D.  (2010). Race/ethnicity and potential suicide misclassification: Window on a minority suicide paradox? BMC Psychiatry 10(35).
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. (2020). 1999-2018 Wide Ranging Online Data for Epidemiological Research (WONDER), Multiple Cause of Death files [Data file]. Retrieved from http://wonder.cdc.gov/ucd-icd10.html
  5. Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2019). 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Rockville, MD. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/report/2018-nsduh-detailed-tables
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System. (2017). 1991-2017 High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data [Data file]. Retrieved from http://nccd.cdc.gov/youthonline/ 

PowerPoint Icon ImageThe charts and graphs in this section are also available as a PowerPoint slide set. Feel free to use this slide set to deliver a presentation about the scope of the suicide problem.