Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


African Americans-Suicidal behavior, Suicide-Prevention, African Americans-Religious life, Spirituality-Psychology, Social integration-Religious aspects, Theoretical, African Americans, Blacks, Suicide, Religion, Spirituality, Religious coping, Social integration


This theoretical investigation discusses how religion and spirituality protects African Americans from committing suicide. Because of the seemingly low rates within the community, suicide has not been afforded the attention it deserves in research. In addition, existing literature attributes this protection to religious and spiritual behaviors but often resorts to global indices (e.g., church attendance and prayer) as determinants. What is lacking in current research is an explanation of how African Americans use their faith to discourage suicidal behavior. Due to a steady increase in Black male suicides, it is imperative that those in academia and clinicians alike begin to pay closer attention to this relationship in order to design interventions to address this growing epidemic. This analysis examines suicide in African Americans through the complementary perspectives of social integration and religious coping. Social integration discusses the importance of religious cohesion in suicide protection, with an emphasis on the Black church and its role in the African American community. Religious coping explores how individuals interpret their relationship with God and use it to moderate stressful situations. As many African Americans are wary of mental health treatment, it is important for clinicians to be able to discuss issues of faith and suicide with cultural competence in order to build the therapeutic alliance necessary to make treatment effective for the client. This thesis aims to present a comprehensive framework to understand this phenomenon that is both socially, psychologically, and culturally relevant to the African American experience.




ii, 128 pages. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, 2015. Includes bibliographical references (pages 108-128)