Online Racial Discrimination and Suicidal Thoughts Among Black Adolescents

March 22, 2024

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark Research

A recent study examined online racial discrimination, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, and suicidal thoughts among Black adolescents. The researchers found an association between these outcomes, hypothesizing that PTSD was a mediator between online discrimination and suicidal behavior (i.e., online racial discrimination predicted PTSD, which predicted suicidal behavior).

This cross-sectional study used data from the National Survey of Critical Digital Literacy collected from October to December 2020. Participants were 525 Black adolescents (265 girls, 251 boys) ages 11 to 19.

The researchers measured participants’ experiences with online racial discrimination using the Individual Online Racial Discrimination subscale of the Online Victimization Scale. To assess symptoms of PTSD, they used the UCLA Child/Adolescent PTSD Reaction Index for DSM-5. To assess suicidal thoughts, they used a single item from the Children’s Depression Inventory-Short.

The analysis found an indirect association between online racial discrimination and suicidal thoughts through PTSD. However, it did not find a direct association between online racial discrimination and suicidal thoughts.

The cross-sectional design of this study measured online racial discrimination, PTSD, and suicidal thoughts at one point in time. Therefore, it was unable to establish temporal relationships between the outcome variables or a causal relationship between them. However, the findings highlight the importance of monitoring and reducing hate speech in online platforms and the need to create safer spaces for Black adolescents.

Tynes, B. M., Maxie-Moreman, A., Ha Hoang, T. M., Willis, H. A., & English, D. (2024). Online racial discrimination, suicidal ideation, and traumatic stress in a national sample of Black adolescents. JAMA Psychiatry.