Abstract: An Examination of Suicidal Behavior Among Black College Students with Exposure to Police Violence (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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An Examination of Suicidal Behavior Among Black College Students with Exposure to Police Violence

Friday, January 13, 2023
South Mountain, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Robert O. Motley Jr., PhD, Assistant Professor, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA
Hannah Szlyk, PhD, LCSW, Instructor, Washington University School of Medicine, Saint Louis, MO
Sean Joe, PhD, LMSW, Associate Dean for Faculty & Research|Benjamin E. Youngdahl Professor of Social Development, Washington University in Saint Louis, St. Louis, MO
Lucy Nonas-Barnes, Graduate Student, Rutgers University-Newark, New Brunswick, NJ
Enoch Azasu, MSW, PhD student, Washington University, St Louis, MO
Background: While being at the peak age of suicide risk, there is limited research about suicidal behaviors among Black emerging adults who report exposure to police violence. The current study applies an integrated approach to examine individual, immediate environment, and community-based risk and protective factors of suicide among Black college students who reported previous exposure to police violence.

Methods: A purposive sample of Black college students (N = 300) was analyzed using bivariate analyses and binary logistic regression. Outcome variables investigated were lifetime suicidal ideation and suicide attempt.

Results: Twenty-eight percent of participants reported lifetime suicidal ideation and 14% reported lifetime attempts. Female students were significantly more likely to report lifetime suicidal ideation, recent symptoms of anxiety and to engage in emotional social support than male peers. Logistic regression results demonstrated that higher income and greater depression symptoms were associated with lower reporting of lifetime suicidal ideation. Reporting of more grit, the trait of perseverance and passion for long-term goals, was associated with a lower reporting of both lifetime suicidal ideation and suicide attempt.

Conclusions and Implications: Our findings have implications for how social workers in higher education are encouraged to address suicidal behavior among Black students, including the cultivation of grit.