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Am J Community Psychol. 2007 Sep;40(1-2):52-63.

Qualitative study of suicidality and help-seeking behaviors in African American adolescents.

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  • 1The George Washington University, Washington, DC, USA.


This qualitative study explores adolescents' perceptions of help-seeking behaviors in the context of a hypothetical suicide crisis. Cauce and colleague's (2002, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 70, 44-55) model was used to examine help-seeking behaviors in 3 domains: problem recognition, decision to seek help, and selection of helpers. Forty-two church-going African American adolescents participated in 1 of 6 focus groups that discussed ways to help a hypothetically suicidal student in a vignette. Findings suggest that although the majority of youth had been exposed to a suicidal peer (76%), they were unsure of the seriousness of suicide as a problem in the African American community. The findings suggest that youth were less comfortable with formal interventions in school, religious institutions or traditional mental health settings. However, youth were open to community-based programs that could be located in school, church or community settings if helpers were: young adults, empathic listeners, non-judgmental, maintained confidentiality, and viewed as "natural helpers". Implications for developing church-based suicide interventions are discussed.

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