Suicide is both the 3rd leading cause of death for 15-24-year-old Black youth and 2nd leading cause of death among college students in the U.S. (CDC, 2019; Liu et al., 2019). Moreover, recent reports indicate that rates of suicide death in Black youth have significantly increased over the past 25 years, while rates of suicide death among youth from other race groups have either remained the same or decreased within this same time frame (Lindsey et al., 2019). One particular psychological factor, resilience, has previously been shown to protect against suicidal behaviors. However, it has yet to be determined whether this relationship holds among students from underserved backgrounds broadly— and among Black youth and young adults specifically.
This investigation measured associations between resilience and suicide ideation, planning, and attempt in Black college men and women. Responses from a cross-sectional nation-wide survey of students who participated in the 2016-18 Healthy Minds Study were assessed. Approximately 3,232 Black/African American students completed the modules and measures of interest that were assessed in this study (e.g., resilience). Participant’s age, gender, sexual orientation, academic level, and first-generation status were included as covariates in the models. All three suicide outcomes were captured using binary items, and a series of logistic regression models were tested to assess associations between resilience and suicidality. Predicted probabilities were also calculated interpretability of results generated from the logistic regression models.
Results from the first logistic regression indicate a negative and statistically significant association exists between resilience and suicide ideation (OR= 0.36; 95% CI= 0.31 to 0.43). These findings suggest that for every one unit change in resilience, the odds of experiencing suicide ideation decreases by 64%. The second logistic regression model examined the association between resilience and suicide planning in Black college students. Again, resilience was negatively associated with suicide plan such that a one unit increase in resilience accounted for a 62% decrease in the odds of suicide planning (OR= 0.38; 95% CI= 0.30 to .048). The final logistic regression model tested the association between resilience and past year suicide attempt. Results indicate that a one unit increase in resilience is significantly associated with a 62% decrease in the odds of attempting suicide in Black college students (OR= 0.38; 95% CI= 0.27 to 0.62).
Conclusion and Implications:
Resilience, or the ability to “bounce back” in the midst of stressful circumstances, appears to protect against adverse mental health outcomes like suicide ideation, planning, and attempt for Black college students. Suicide prevention interventions must account for the cultural implications of resilience and the unique factors that contribute to suicide within communities of color. Careful attention should also be given to ensure that clinicians and interventionist do not simply tell Black college students to “tough it out” or to “just push through.” Instead, offering practical strategies and skills that build resilience overtime will be necessary in order to improve the wellbeing and mental health outcomes of Black youth and young adults in the U.S.