Black and African American

Black and African American are terms often used to describe this population, which can include Caribbean Blacks. The Office of Management and Budget defines Black or African American as a person having origins in any of the Black racial groups of Africa. Most national health data sources use the term Black. According to the 2018 United States Census estimates, the United States population is approximately 14.6% Black or African American.

Although Black suicide rates are lower than the overall U.S. rates, suicide affects Black youth at a much higher rate than Black adults. Suicide deaths among Black females aged 13 to 19 rose 182% between 2001 and 2017, while the rate among Black teen males rose 60% during that same period. Since the Black community in the United States is disproportionately young, the number of deaths among youth may have a particularly strong impact on the Black community.

Strengths and Protective Factors

Across all populations, some of the most significant protective factors are:

  • Effective mental health care
  • Connectedness to individuals, family, community, and social institutions
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Contacts with caregivers

In addition, research has shown the following to be among the most significant protective factors in Black populations:

  • Religion: Orthodox religious beliefs and personal devotion have been identified as protective against suicide among Blacks.
  • Participation in organized religious practices, such as church attendance, is linked to lower suicide risk in African Americans.
  • Among Blacks with psychiatric disorders, religiosity has been found to delay age of onset of ideation as well as decrease the number of psychiatric disorders.
  • Social and emotional support: Family support, peer support, and community connectedness have been shown to help protect Black adolescents from suicidal behavior. Similarly, positive interactions and social and family support have been shown to significantly reduce risk for suicide attempts among Black adults.
  • Black identity: Two small studies of African American women found that having a strong sense of African American identity, heritage, and history was protective against suicide.

Risk Factors

Across all populations, some of the most significant risk factors are:

  • Prior suicide attempt(s)
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Mood and anxiety disorders
  • Access to a means to lethal means

For individuals who are already at risk, a “triggering” event causing shame or despair may make them more likely to attempt suicide. These events may include relationship problems and breakups, problems at work, financial hardships, legal difficulties, and worsening health.

In addition, research has shown the following to be among the most significant risk factors in Black populations:

  • Marital status: Among Black Americans, being divorced or widowed has been significantly associated with increased odds of suicidal ideation compared with being married or never married.
  • Family conflict: Negative interaction with family members was associated with increased suicidal behavior among Black adults. The effect was more pronounced among Caribbean Blacks than among African Americans.
  • One study noted that Black adolescents reporting parental conflict were 6.4 times more likely to attempt suicide than Black adolescents who did not report parental conflict.
  • Acculturation: Increased acculturation into White society, which can include loss of family cohesion and support, leads to increased risk for suicidal ideation and suicide attempts.
  • Hopelessness, racism, and discrimination: Among Black youth, perceived racism and discrimination along with social and economic disadvantage may lead to having no hope for the future, which is a risk factor for suicide.
  • Mental health services access and use: In a study using a nationally representative sample, Black youth were substantially less likely than White youth to have used a mental health service in the year during which they seriously thought about or attempted suicide.

In a large national survey, Blacks who reported suicidal thoughts or attempts were less likely than Whites to seek or receive psychiatric services.

Source: Suicide Prevention Resource Center and WebMD.

Additional Helpful Resources

University of Louisville Resources

University of Louisville Cultural Center U of L is committed to creating a challenging intellectual climate enhanced by our many human differences, and this serves as the foundational objective of the programs and services provided by the Cultural Center. More specifically, the Cultural Center creates educational opportunities for members of the university community to critically think about their beliefs, values and assumptions as it relates to culture. To fulfill our mission, we support and offer co–curricular and extra–curricular programs that acknowledge and reflect the experiences of under–represented populations. We also provide educational opportunities for all members of the campus community to examine their individual and group experiences within a culturally diverse society.

University of Louisville Student Organizations

Association of Black Students

The mission of the Association of Black Students is to stimulate and promote the intellectual, political, social, and cultural health of the campus community as a whole, with a focus on the issues impacting African American students and other underrepresented groups. ABS in the "umbrella" organization of African American student & organizations. They provide a resource clearing house for the social, financial, cultural, and advocacy needs on campus.

Black Diamond Choir (BDC)

The Black Diamond Choir is a one hour credit course offered at the University of Louisville each semester listed as Music 109. Organized in 1969, the student gospel group has been singing and sharing the "Good News" locally and in various locations within Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee, Ohio, and Georgia.

For more information, visit our Resource Section.


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