Reasons for Suicidal Thoughts in Black Young Adults

March 01, 2024

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark Research

A recent study examined patterns in the reasons for suicidal thoughts among Black young adults.

Researchers recruited participants from a larger study on the mental health of Black young adults ages 18 to 30. They measured reasons for considering suicide using the Positive and Negative Suicide Ideation Inventory (PNSI), which asks respondents to describe any thoughts they’ve had related to suicide in the past two weeks. The researchers also collected information on participants’ demographics, lifetime mental illness diagnoses, and anxiety and depression symptoms.

The study sample included 132 men and 132 women with an average age of 22 who reported experiencing any suicidal thoughts. Thirty-two percent of the sample had been previously diagnosed with a mental illness. Among all participants, 19.01% met criteria for severe levels of depression and 21.67% met criteria for severe levels of anxiety.

Among Black men in the study, the most frequently reported reason for thinking about suicide was feeling hopeless about the future. Among Black women, two reasons were most frequently reported: feeling hopeless about the future and feeling so lonely and sad that suicide would end their pain. Women were more likely than men to report having suicidal thoughts because they felt they were unable to live up to the expectations of others.

The findings of this study are consistent with previous research that identified hopelessness as a consistent factor in suicidal behavior. While much of the previous research on Black young adults focused on college students, this study provides insights into gender, education, and socioeconomic differences in the reasons for thinking about suicide.

The study has several limitations. Participants were selected from a larger study and may not be representative of all Black young adults. The self-report instrument (PNSI) used to collect the information provided limited response choices and may not have accounted for all the reasons Black young adults might have suicidal thoughts. For example, PNSI does not ask about feelings of “defeat” or “entrapment,” which have been reported as reasons for suicidal thoughts in other studies.

Future qualitative research may help illuminate the complex issues that underlie suicide risk in Black young adults. Such research could inform prevention and treatment of suicidal behavior in this population.

Goodwill, J. R. (2024). Reasons for suicide in Black young adults: A latent class analysis. Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, 11(1), 425-440.