Context: Lack of data on the lifetime prevalence and age at onset of suicide ideation, plans, and attempts among blacks in the United States limits the creation and evaluation of interventions to reduce suicide among black Americans.
Objective: To examine the prevalence and correlates of suicide ideation, planning, and attempts across 2 ethnic classifications of blacks in a nationally representative sample.
Design, setting, and participants: Data are from the National Survey of American Life, a national household probability sample of 5181 black respondents aged 18 years and older, conducted between February 2001 and June 2003, using a slightly modified adaptation of the World Health Organization World Mental Health version of the Composite International Diagnostic Interview. Bivariate and survival analyses were used to delineate patterns and correlates of nonfatal suicidal behavior.
Main outcome measures: Self-reports of lifetime suicide ideation, planning, and attempts.
Results: Survey respondents, categorized as African Americans and Caribbean Americans, reported lifetime prevalence of 11.7% for suicide ideation and 4.1% for attempts. Among the respondents who reported ideation, 34.6% transitioned to making a plan and only 21% made an unplanned attempt. Among 4 ethnic-sex groups, the 7.5% lifetime prevalence for attempts among Caribbean black men was the highest among black Americans. The greatest risk of progressing to suicide planning or attempt among ideators occurred within the first year after ideation onset. Blacks at higher risk for suicide attempts were in younger birth cohorts, less educated, Midwest residents, and had 1 or more Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition disorders.
Conclusions: This study documents the burden of nonfatal suicidality among US blacks, notably Caribbean black men, and individuals making planned attempts. Advancing research on the transition from suicide planning to attempt is vital to the efficacy of health care professionals' ability to screen blacks at risk for suicide.