A New Study Shows the Moderating Role of Religiosity on Black Suicides

rheeda-walkerA 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.

Related Articles


  1. Overall, I think this is great. But I think a major discussion needs to happen among black people concerning religion, beliefs and the serious need to move into a new liberation paradigm beyond the mental shackles of plantation slavery.

    This discussion could clear up confusion among large numbers of blacks who really need to leave this mental plantation baggage on the pages of history books for good.

  2. The research did not yield anything new. Prior studies have revealed that the suicide rate among Blacks has been consistently lower than the rate for Whites. The same studies indicated that the suicide rate for Blacks tend to decrease with age; however, the opposite is true for Whites.

  3. As I recall, Marx described religion in a capitalist society as “the heart of a heartless world, the sigh of the oppressed”. In other words, it functioned as a devise to enable the workingclass to endure continuing oppression instead of actively confronting such oppression and removing it. Thus, functionally, organized religion has worked with the capitalist Ruling Class, not against it, to extract profits and continue the miseries of the very majoruity workingclass that creates all wealth. Viewed politically, then, religion is hence anti-revolutionary and not revolutionary–anti-progressive instead of progressive. Suicide, depression, mental illness, and religiosity are often signs of poverty, prejudice, and powerlessness, but they are not healthy or effective responses to them.

Leave a Reply

Get the JBHE Weekly Bulletin

Receive our weekly email newsletter delivered to your inbox

Latest News

Johns Hopkins University Launches New Major and Center for Critical Study of Racism, Immigration, and Colonialism

The new Chloe Center for the Critical Study of Racism, Immigration, and Colonialism will provide research opportunities and educational events for the Johns Hopkins University community. As part of the new program, the university has announced a new undergraduate major in critical diaspora studies.

Chicago Library Receives $2 Million to Digitize Collection of African American History and Literature

The Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection housed within the Chicago Public Library will soon be available online to the public thanks to a $2 million grant from the Mellon Foundation.

Online Articles That May Be of Interest to JBHE Readers

Each week, JBHE will provide links to online articles that may be of interest to our readers. Here are this week’s selections.

Recent Books of Interest to African American Scholars

The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education regularly publishes a list of new books that may be of interest to our readers. The books included are on a wide variety of subjects and present many different points of view.

Featured Jobs