Suicide in African American Adolescents: A Focus on Resilience and Prevention

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In recent years, an alarming trend has emerged: the rise in suicide rates among African American adolescents. The article, “Suicide in African American Adolescents: Understanding Risk by Studying Resilience,” highlights this concerning development. Historically, African American adolescents had lower suicide rates compared to other groups. However, this has changed dramatically, with suicide now ranking as the third leading cause of death in this demographic.

The Significance for School Psychologists

This trend is particularly significant for school psychologists and professionals in school mental health. They are often on the front lines of detecting and addressing the mental health needs of adolescents. The rising suicide rates point to a need for these professionals to be more vigilant and informed about the unique challenges faced by African American adolescents.

Understanding the Factors at Play

The article discusses various factors contributing to this trend. These include systemic and structural racism, cultural norms, and stigma around mental health in the African American community. Moreover, it suggests that traditional suicide theories may not fully capture the unique experiences of African American adolescents, emphasizing the need for a culturally sensitive approach in both assessment and intervention.

Systemic and Structural Racism

Systemic and structural racism plays a significant role in the mental health of African American adolescents. This racism can lead to a range of stressors, including economic hardship, exposure to violence, and discrimination, which in turn can increase suicide risk.

Cultural Norms and Stigma

Cultural norms and stigma within the African American community regarding mental health and suicide can also impact how these issues are addressed. This often leads to underreporting and misclassification of suicidal behaviors, making it challenging to provide the necessary support.

The Need for Culturally Sensitive Approaches

For school psychologists, this underscores the importance of employing culturally sensitive methods in their work. Recognizing the unique experiences and challenges of African American adolescents is crucial in effectively supporting their mental health needs.

Focusing on Resilience and Prevention

A key aspect of the article is its emphasis on resilience in African American adolescents. Understanding the factors that contribute to resilience can provide critical insights into effective prevention strategies.

Role of Racial Identity and Socialization

Strong racial identity and positive racial socialization have been found to be protective factors that can help mitigate suicide risk. School psychologists can play a role in fostering these aspects in African American adolescents through supportive counseling and culturally affirming practices.

The Importance of Community and Family Support

The support of family and community is also highlighted as a vital component of resilience. School mental health professionals can collaborate with families and community organizations to create supportive environments for African American adolescents.

Recommendations for Future Directions

The article recommends future research focused on developing a more nuanced understanding of suicide risk and resilience in African American adolescents. This includes the need for theories and interventions that are specifically tailored to their experiences and challenges.

Developing Culturally Tailored Interventions

There is a critical need for interventions that are specifically designed for African American adolescents, taking into account their unique cultural and social context.

Training and Education for Mental Health Professionals

Mental health professionals, including school psychologists, need training and education on the specific challenges faced by African American adolescents. This training should focus on cultural sensitivity, anti-racist practices, and effective intervention strategies.


The rising suicide rates among African American adolescents is a complex issue that requires a multifaceted approach. School psychologists and related professionals have a crucial role to play in addressing this trend. By focusing on resilience, understanding the role of racism and cultural factors, and employing culturally sensitive practices, we can work towards better supporting the mental health needs of African American adolescents.

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