“What Don’t Kill Me Makes Me Stronger”: Black Women’s Narratives Concerning Their Low Rates of Suicide
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The black-white suicide paradox explored in the current study explores black women's notions of suicide. In its most basic form, a fundamental question of this project is why have black women's suicide rates remained consistently low? This project seeks to explore specific internal and external adaptations that black women have come to rely on for long term survival. A great deal of attention will be given to black women's perspectives of suicide inside and outside of the black community. This qualitative study by way of narratives provides insight into the entities that black women perceive to contribute to their virtually non-existent suicide rates. This approach is particularly appropriate for this study because black women's accounts on suicide will provide rich detailed data typically unseen in current suicide literature. In my work, I assume that black women's multifaceted oppressive conditions have compelled them to use subtle forms of resistance, i.e. coping mechanisms that act as protective barriers against suicide. This study also re-examines notions of social integration and religious beliefs in lessening chances of suicide among black women. Research findings were presented by way of four themes that emerged from the dominant narratives of twenty-two in-depth interviews. Respondents perceived family and communal obligations, faith based beliefs, a sense of long suffering, and declaration of strength to be the primary grounds for black women's low rates of suicide. Recurring themes were consistent despite the women's income or education levels. The study concludes that black women employ and perceive these strategies to be significant in coping or resisting trivial and significant stressors of life. Additionally, black women's perception of suicide as a weakness played a significant role in the way they defined themselves as well as the act. For literature on suicide, I engaged the works of Durkheim, Prudomme, Hendin, and Lester among others as a theoretical framework for this study.
Spates, Kamesha S (2009). “What Don’t Kill Me Makes Me Stronger”: Black Women’s Narratives Concerning Their Low Rates of Suicide. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from