Skip to main content

About Our Research

Understanding African-American suicide

Suicide is a leading cause of death for young African-American adults. Since patterns for risk differ in important ways for this group relative to others, strategic studies that examine both between and within racial/ethnic groups are critical. Our conceptualization for Black/African-American suicide (Walker, 2007; Walker, Salami, Carter, & Flowers, 2014; Walker, Townley, & Asiamah, 2008) provides a framework for how researchers and clinicians might examine risk in a multidimensional manner. The model illustrates how "universal" risks such as depression and anxiety pathology interact with culturally-relevant buffers such as ethnic identity to affect suicidal ideation, planning, and attempts.

Ethnic groups differences in risk and protective factors for suicide

Much of our scholarly work has focused on suicide and its correlates in multi-ethnic samples toward the primary goal of developing culturally relevant suicide prevention. As an example, we found that self-reported depressive symptoms and suicide ideation were similarly correlated in African-American and European-American college students (Walker et al., 2008). However, intragroup analysis revealed that only certain subgroups of young, depressed, African-Americans--those who reported relatively low ethnic identity and those who reported relatively high acculturative stress-were likely to report having thoughts of suicide. These factors may account, at least in part, for ethnic group differences in suicide deaths and builds an important foundation for developing effective models for suicide prevention

Sociocultural factors in psychological well-being

We have attempted to explain psychological nuances by examining social and cultural phenomena. Much of our understanding of African-American mental health has been left to conjecture. As one example, religiosity is used as a cultural proxy to account for much "unexplained" behavior, including having more "reasons for living" than European Americans. However, we (Walker et al., 2010) specifically examined worldview as one aspect of culture and found that it was a robust predictor for self-reported reasons for living. In ongoing studies, we aim to tease apart the cultural and social factors that best account for psychological disturbance in Asian, Black, and Hispanic adults.

Current Projects

Testing models of suicide vulnerability in a multiethnic university sample

Assessing correlates of health behavior in African American adults diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes

Testing behavioral indicators of self-harm behavior via implicit strategies