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Depress Anxiety. 2000;12(1):13-20.

Risk factors for suicide attempts among African American women.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.


The aim of this study was to examine psychological and interpersonal risk factors for suicidal behavior in low income, African American women; 285 African American women who reported being in a relationship with a partner in the past year were studied, 148 presented to the hospital following a suicide attempt, and 137 presented for general medical care. Cases were compared to controls with respect to psychological symptoms, alcohol and drug abuse, family violence (intimate partner abuse, childhood trauma), relationship discord, and social support. Psychological risk factors for suicide attempts at the univariate level included psychological distress [Crude Odds Ratio (COR) = 6.5], post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms (COR = 3.8), hopelessness (COR = 7.7), and drug abuse (COR = 4.2). Interpersonal risk factors at the univariate level included relationship discord (COR = 4.0), physical partner abuse (COR = 2.5), nonphysical partner abuse (COR = 2.8), childhood maltreatment (COR = 3.2), and low levels of social support (COR = 2.6). A multivariate logistic regression model identified four variables that were strongly and independently associated with an increased risk for suicide attempts: psychological distress, hopelessness, drug abuse, and relationship discord. The model predicted suicide attempt status correctly 77% of the time. The results reveal that African American women who report high levels of psychological distress, hopelessness, drug use, and relationship discord should be assessed carefully for suicidal ideation and referred for appropriate mental health care.

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