Date of Award

January 2021

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)

Department

School of Public Health

First Advisor

Ashley Hagaman

Second Advisor

Kirsty Clark

Abstract

Background. Suicidal behavior among Black youth is rising in the United States , yet little is known about how Black Youth engage and navigate suicidality. While we know that suicide ideation and death by suicide is decreasing overall among youth in the U.S., incidences of death by suicide are still rising among Black youth. There is very little understanding of what community support is accessible to Black youth who are experiencing suicidality. The present study examines how Black young adults who experienced suicidality in their youth turned to their social support systems and communities for support. Method. Seventeen semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted between February 2020 and March 2020 with Black young adults [range=18-25] who reported experiencing suicidal thoughts and/or behaviors during their childhood [range=7-17]. Drawing upon a grounded theory approach, the analysis generated themes related to interpersonal relationships and community supports during the youth’s period of suicidality in order to understand their approach to seeking help. Results. Two central themes detailed Black youth’s experience turning to their social support systems while experiencing suicidality. First, participants described how they believed that seeking help would only further isolate them and perhaps even make their life worse. Drawing upon past experiences, both their own and others, Black youth saw that expressing negative emotions could result in getting in trouble with their parents, their friends ostracizing them, or their educators revealing their suicidality to the school or to their parents. Second, participants described a strong sense of responsibility to their communities (e.g., family, peer group, school) and how the interpersonal roles they played in those communities prevented them from disclosing their suicidality and seeking help. Although participants often felt isolated from their communities, they still perceived themselves as integral pieces of them. This dichotomy infused a sense of guilt at the idea of further burdening their communities or leaving their communities to deal with the aftermath of their suicide. Conclusion. We uncovered novel Black youth-specific experiences that were associated with hesitancy to disclose their suicidality, limited help-seeking, and elucidated the impact of community on Black youth’s suicidality. Findings delineate important considerations for suicide prevention messaging and interventions for this understudied and vulnerable population.

Comments

This thesis is restricted to Yale network users only. It will be made publicly available on 06/01/2023

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