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Suicide Resilience And Vulnerability Among African-Americans

By Melissa Carroll

Rheeda Walker, associate professor and director of the Culture, Risk and Resilience Lab at UH

According to a new University of Houston study, religious beliefs and practices may offset detrimental effects of racial discrimination and reduce thoughts of suicide in the African-American community.

Experiencing racial discrimination can cause an excessive amount of psychological stress, which could lead to depression and other high–risk factors for suicide, according to the research of Rheeda Walker, associate professor and director of the Culture, Risk and Resilience Lab at UH.

Walker is the principal investigator of the research study “Perceived Racism and Suicide Ideation: Mediating Role of Depression but Moderating Role of Religiosity among African American Adults” published in the journal Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior. The study’s goal was to assess suicide ideation, depressive symptoms, religious orientation and perceived racism in a community sample of 236 African-American men and women.

Walker’s research provides evidence that perceived racism may play a role in suicidal tendencies. The study’s findings support the notion that extrinsic religiosity (external motivation for being religious, such as meeting people, community conformity, cultural heritage, etc.) can buffer the harmful effects of racism.

“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,” said Walker.

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