A new study led by Rheeda Walker, an associate professor of psychology and director of the Culture, Risk, and Resilience Laboratory at the University of Houston, finds that religion may be a major factor in explaining the lower suicide rate among African Americans.
Dr. Walker, who holds a Ph.D. from Florida State University, states that “African-Americans experience an inordinate amount of psychological strain through racial discrimination, leading to depression, hopelessness and other high risk factors for suicide, but demonstrate significantly lower rates of suicide relative to European-Americans.”
Dr. Walker’s research notes that about 1,900 African Americans take their own lives each year. She shows that perceived racism may play a role in suicide vulnerability. However, she notes that “although discrimination can have adverse emotional consequences, the findings suggest that the ‘use’ of religion perhaps to connect with others or to meet some other need can be emotionally helpful among individuals who experience racism.”
The article, “Perceived Racism and Suicide Ideation: Mediating Role of Depression but Moderating Role of Religiosity among African American Adults,” was published in the October issue of the journal Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior. It may be accessed here.