Black And Proud: Study Credits “Positive Racial Regard” For Low Suicide Rate Among Black Women

August 23, 2012  |  

"Black woman happy"

Despite making headlines for being “most likely to be [every terrible thing known to man]”, it turns out Black women are the least likely to commit suicide. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the suicide rate among white men was 25.96 per 100,000 from 2005 to 2009 and, by comparison, the rate for black women was less than three suicides per 100,000.

As we reported before, according to the Government Executive, Veterans Affairs officials are studying the uniquely supportive culture of black women believing that might provide a key to addressing the spike in suicides occurring in the armed forces. They are hoping to re-create elements of black female culture that may help stop military veterans from killing themselves.

Of course, this isn’t to say that Black women don’t struggle with mental health issues, but according to Good Therapy, a sense of belonging might be the reason Black women do not often commit suicide:

The stigma that is associated with mental health problems may be disguising the real number of African Americans at risk for suicide. Research on suicide has been focused in many directions to assess the contributing factors. One area of research that has not been examined fully is the relationship between suicide and reasons for living among African-American women.

To address this gap, Jalika C. Street of the Department of Psychology at Georgia State University led a study that looked at how racial regard, which describes people’s sense of belonging to their race, influenced suicidal behavior in a sample of 82 African-American women with a history of at least one suicide attempt. She also assessed how racial regard and reasons for living worked together to affect future suicide attempts. Street used the Multidimensional Inventory of Black Identity and the Reasons for Living Inventory scales in her study.

Street discovered that the women who reported deep racial regard and felt positively associated with their African-American identity reported being more committed to living and felt a stronger sense of purpose than those with little racial regard. Racial identity alone, in the absence of racial regard, did not increase a woman’s willingness to live. These findings shed some light on how private racial association and sense of commitment affect psychological well-being in African-American women. It has been suggested that private racial regard is linked to mental health issues, such as self-esteem and depression, in other culturally diverse samples, but this study is the first to elucidate a link between racial regard, desire for living, and suicidal ideation and behavior in this sample; the practical implications of these findings could be significant if applied in a clinical setting. “In other words, private racial regard may be considered a coping resource that is important to capitalize upon in designing and implementing culturally informed interventions,” said Street.

We know that our friendships are important, but it seems having good thoughts toward our race and others of the same race can be a factor in decreasing the likelihood of committing suicide. However, these researchers did point out that suicide still poses a major problem for the culture at large. Some experts believe that the low rates of suicide do not accurately reflect suicidal ideation (or thoughts of suicide) among African-Americans because many members of African-American communities perceive disclosure as a sign of weakness.

While we can definitely be glad that Black women aren’t killing themselves in high numbers, if even one feels she needs to end her life, that is one too many.

Are you surprised by their reasoning for black women being the least likely to commit suicide?

 Follow Alissa on Twitter @AlissaInPink

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  • Guest

    Not me,Ive been suicidal for some time now and I cant wait to kill myself.

  • BlackXMessiah

    Black women are very mentally strong

  • Kayo

    It could be because suicide is seen as a white problem. It could also be that many Black women are overly religious and believe it is a sin.

    • redfingerpaint

      I agree, when the economy first started to decline, I remember hearing so many stories of the white man killing his wife and kids before he killed himself.

      However, I don’t think that saying many Black women are overly religious is right nor accurate. I think in general Black women have to hold the fort down and we know that killing ourselves would just make matters worse.

      • Kayo

        It is right and accurate, according to recent studies that acknowledge Black women as the most religious.

        • redfingerpaint

          The part that bothered me is when you said “overly” religious.

        • guest

          Not me I have no religion.I believe in no so called god.

  • jane

    They seem so surprised that we love ourselves and value our lives lol. Majority of black women don’t care what people think of us anymore, and that includes hateful black males. They quick to throw an insult but it’s you who has the low self esteem.

    • Im not shocked either. We have always been strong

    • Natalynn

      Exactly, the very thing that keeps us alive is the very thing people try to make negative about us–our strength! Let them other fools kill themselves we on to the next.