Moral objections to suicide and suicidal ideation among White, Black, and Hispanic individuals with mood disorders
Leo Sher, M.D.
Our research work, “Moral objections to suicide and suicidal ideation among mood disordered Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics” was published 15 years ago in the January 2009 issue of the Journal of Psychiatric Research (1).
Understanding the beliefs that protect individuals against suicide can help to enhance suicide prevention strategies. One measure of suicide non-acceptability is the moral objections to suicide (MOS) sub-scale of the reasons for living inventory (RFLI). The MOS sub-scale contains four statements, three of which are of a religious nature (Only God has the right to end life; I am afraid of going to Hell; My religion forbids it) and one non-religious (I consider it morally wrong). This study examined the MOS and suicidal ideation of White, Black, and Hispanic individuals with mood disorders.
In all, 804 individuals were enrolled in the study. There were 588 White, 122 Black and 94 Hispanic study participants. Participants were between the ages of 17 and 85 years, with an average age of 38.7 years. The amount of formal education ranged from 3 to 24 years, with an average of 14.6 years.
All participants met the DSM-IV criteria for lifetime or current major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder. The patients were administered the RFLI and Scale for Suicide Ideation. The study participants were also examined using the Lethality Rating, Brown Goodwin Aggression History, and Barratt Impulsivity Scales.
Higher suicidal ideation was correlated with lower MOS sub-scale scores overall. Among Blacks however the relationship was inverted: despite having higher suicidal ideation than Whites or Hispanics, Blacks reported the least accepting attitudes toward suicide.
The authors suggest that further studies are needed to establish whether the lethality of an attempt may be more serious, and the determination to die may be greater in someone who has contemplated suicide as an acceptable option.
- Richardson-Vejlgaard R, Sher L, Oquendo MA, Lizardi D, Stanley B. Moral objections to suicide and suicidal ideation among mood disordered Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics. J Psychiatr Res. 2009 Jan;43(4):360-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2008.03.008. Epub 2008 May 21.