All Articles Tagged "black women’s suicide rate"
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?
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Most times when we find out that researchers are going to be studying some facet of black women we cringe. Especially since as of late those studies have revolved around two things—why are we all overweight and why are we all single. Yeah, we’re over it. But a new Veterans Affairs study is actually looking to examine something that black women are doing right in order to help other ethnic groups who aren’t faring so well. Amazing, right?
That being said, the good news this week is: We support one another more than any other culture!
How do we know this? Well, the government has been examining the fact that suicides among U.S. military members have spiked this year to an average of one suicide a day which is an 18 percent increase over last year and the highest rate so far during a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although the government doesn’t break down military suicides according to race, when you look at the general population, African American women have the lowest suicide rate of any group, while white men have the highest. Seems pretty odd for a double minority to be handling life better than the one’s born into the highest rank of society, right? The Department of Veterans Affairs thinks so too which is why they’re looking into how black women’s network of social support can be applied to military personnel and curb these deaths.
Jan Kemp, the Veterans Affairs mental health director for suicide prevention, told Government Executive magazine:
“The sense of community among [black women] and the … built-in support that they get from each other is something we’re paying a lot of attention to, and trying to find ways to emulate. I think often that veterans and men don’t have that same sort of personal support, and we have to build that for them.”
The Grio points out that recent studies like those from the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation have brought our supportive nature to the forefront, showing how we rely on one another and our own sense of self-worth to still feel beautiful and powerful and loved despite expanded waist bands, low net worth, and even social stereotypes and racism, and we encourage other black women to feel the same.
Sophia Nelson, author of Black Woman Redefined, told the Grio there are two main reasons why black women have a lower suicide rate and hold up so well against the odds:
“Black women are considered the most loyal faith-based group in the country,” she said. “It’s really black women’s coping mechanism. Black people go to church at the highest rate in this country, black women being the largest portion of that group.”
The other reason is steeped more in our history in America.
“The strength of black women harkens back to slavery, but that strength is not just physical — it’s also spiritual. It has evolved,” she added. “We have been through slavery, Jim Crow, and suffered the social injuries of being both black and female. I would argue that black women, because of the horror we have endured — that puts you in a very unique situation. Their strength and their spirituality is what saved them — because of their history. It’s kind of like being a marathon runner. You build up your endurance over time.”
As much as we don’t like to have to have to carry the image of the strong black woman on our backs all the time, this research shows it’s something that’s already in most of us anyway. Kudos to us for having each other’s backs and our own!
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