Suicide, Suicidal Ideation Bigger Issue for Blacks Than Previously Thought
> 11/1/2006 1:27:34 PM

Black men and women have long been viewed as less likely to attempt suicide because of popularly held misconceptions about how the black community viewed the act. Research in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association shows that, in reality, the previously reported 2.8 % lifetime rate of suicide is actually more like 4%, closer to the number for whites.

The JAMA study, conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan, is the first national representative study to examine the issue of suicide and suicidality in blacks. Researchers also found levels of attempted suicides and suicidal ideation that were much higher than previously thought. The study's lead author, Dr. Sean Joe, had previously published research that showed that the stigma attached to suicide, which many had believed was greater in the black community, was actually the same as the perceived stigma in other communities.

It would seem that due to a lack of actual information and some anachronistic racial stereotypes, blacks who battle suicidal thoughts and even attempted suicide as part of their struggles with depression or other mental health problems were not being taken as seriously. It is also surprising that it took this long for a researcher to produce the kind of hard evidence that would overturn these baseless ideas. Evidently, suicide and suicidal ideation are just as big a problem for black populations as they are for whites. In their PR campaign this year to inform men about depression, the NIMH did well to choose a slate of personal stories that represented people of diverse backgrounds. Depression and suicide are issues that can strike anyone and anywhere. Now that real facts have set the record straight on blacks and suicide, hopefully equal and comparable efforts will continue to address the problem across the entire population.

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