An AP story hit the wires today that covers new research on suicide attempt rates for African- and Carribean- Americans. Historically, suicide attempt rates for this population have been significantly lower than for white Americans. According to the story, part of this was related to a high stigma of suicide in the black community, which dates back to times of slavery.

Historically, suicide was taboo in the black community going back to slavery times, at least partly because “it was really frowned on by the black church,” said Dr. Alvin Poussaint, a Harvard University psychiatry professor and race relations specialist. “It was a stigma and it brought shame to your family.” Blacks “thought life was supposed to be hard for them,” and that may have helped protect them from suicide, Poussaint said.”

There are a ton of implications of this story, such as it raising questions on why the rate has changed (if it in fact has) and what factors may uniquely predict and prevent suicide attempts for this population. Ideally, new research can answer some of these questions and inform practitioners and communities on where help is specifically needed. I also hope that mental health organizations will respond with increased outreach efforts geared toward at-risk groups.