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Stigma of Suicide and Grief in African-American Mothers"Literature Review" Chapter

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Suicide Grief among African-American Mothers

THE COLOR OF STIGMA

This research will explore the experience of representative African-American mothers who lost their sons to suicide. The biopsychosocial contextual model of stress, as specifically applied to suicide as stressor, by Clark, Anderson, Clark and Williams (1999) will guide the following research questions:

Does perceived stigma due to suicide, as measured by the Suicide Stigmatization Scale (Fiegelman et al., 2011) significantly predict severity of grief, as measured by the Inventory of Complicated Grief (Prigerson et al., 1995), in African-American mothers who have lost a son to suicide, controlling for maternal socioeconomic status, age, relationship status, depression, and history of suicide in the family?

Does the coping style of John Henryism, as measured by the John Henryism Active Coping Scale (James, 1983) increase perceived stigma due to suicide, as measured by the Suicide Stigmatization Scale (Fiegleman et al., 2011) and severity of grief, as measured by the Inventory of Complicated Grief (Prigerson et al., 1995), in African-American mothers who have lost a son to suicide, controlling for maternal socioeconomic status, age, relationship status, depression, and history of suicide in the family?

3. Does belief that suicide is due to societal causes, as measured by the societal causes subscale of the Attitudes Toward Suicide Scale (ATTS; Lester & Bean, 1992; Knight et al., 2000) significantly predict severity of grief, as measured by the Inventory of Complicated Grief (Prigerson et al., 1995), in African-American mothers who have lost a son to suicide, controlling for maternal socioeconomic status, age, relationship status, depression, and history of suicide in the family?

4. Does the coping style of John Henryism, as measured by the John Henryism Active Coping Scale (James, 1983) increase the belief that suicide is due to societal causes, as measured by the societal causes subscale of the Attitudes Toward Suicide Scale (ATTS; Lester & Bean, 1992; Knight et al., 2000) and severity of grief, as measured by the Inventory of Complicated Grief (Prigerson et al., 1995), in African-American mothers who have lost a son to suicide, controlling for maternal socioeconomic status, age, relationship status, depression, and history of suicide in the family?

Suicide Grief in African-American Mothers: the Roles of Suicide Stigmatization,

Attitudes toward Suicide, and John Henryism

Research Topic -- In 2010 an 2011, suicide was officially reported as the third suicides among African-Americans are male (CDC, 2011). The excruciating impact of a son's suicide on the severity of grief on his mother has scarcely been studied with any rigor despite the admitted sustained increase in the rates (CDC, 2011; Barnes, 2006; Day-Vines, 2007; Utsey, Hook & Stanard, 2007). The sordid picture is that it is reported as the leading cause of death among African-American males aged 15-24 and that 80% of all suicides in the black community are males. Societal and intrapersonal factors to these mothers' grief due to their son's suicide are believed to be influenced by societal and intrapersonal factors specific to the community (Barnes, 2006; Laurie & Niemeyer, 2008; Woods et al., 2013). One is stigma, which prevents affected African-Americans with mental illness and contemplating suicide (Walker, Lester, & Joe, 2006, p. 322). Another factor may be John Henryism, a cultural-based coping strategy, applied by African-Americans in dealing with chronic stress, which frequently leads to depression and psychological distress (Bronder, Speight, Witherspoon, & Thomas, 2013; Hunn & Craig, 2009). It consists of coping perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors, which comprise their belief in their capability to overcome any obstacle through intense hard work, perseverance and innate strength of character. (Hunn & Craig, 2009). While ideally admirable, they are practiced at the expense of their real physical and psychological health (Hunn & Craig, 2009). This concept is further exaggerated by Black feminist works, such as those of Simms-Brown (1982), Beauboeuf-LaFontant (2009), and Woods-Giscombe (2010), which enshrine the black female as "The Strong Black Woman" or SBW or a superwoman (Woods-Giscombe, 2010, p. 2). The cumulative ideal of superhuman strength of character in African-Americans is embodied by their women, specifically mothers, the normal human being can bear (Woods-Giscombe, 2010). But

Beauboeuf-LaFontant (2009) and Woods-Giscombe (2010) have persuasively argued against the stereotype as placing considerable or unbearable stress on black women rather than delighting or affirming their well-being. It is a ruthless expansion of John Henryism.

A third compelling contributing factor is the mother-son relationship among them. Scholars (Bush, 2004; Mandara et al., 2006, 2010; McLoyd, 1990; Randolph, 1995) observe and studies show that African-American mothers have different parenting approaches for sons and daughters. They love their sons but they raise their daughters (Randolph, 1995, p. 121; Lawson Bush, 2004; Mandara et al., 2006, 2010; McLoyd, 1990; Randolph, 1995). Mothers are generally more protective of their sons, specifically against a racist society (Bush, 2004). They are wary that their sons would not be capable of dealing with the pain of racism. They also perceive their men in general as enduring adversity while maintaining inherent dignity, strength and pride (Bush, 2004, p 382). African-American mothers ascribe these qualities and importance as part of John Henryism to both their sons and daughters. But Bush (2004) surmises that these mothers might feel more guilt if their sons failed the ideal than if their daughters did. Another explanation is that mothers raised and expected their daughters to be more independent and assertive, particularly in educational and career decisions and achievement (Bush, 2004; Wood, Kurtz-Costes, Okeke-Adeyanju, & Rowley, 2009). In contrast and in their over-protectiveness, mothers tend to make major life decisions for their sons more than their daughters (Gantt & Greif, 2009; Mandara et al., 2006, 2010; McLoyd, 1990; Wood et al., 2009). This overall valuing explains the extraordinarily painful impact of a son's suicide to African-American mothers. Their grief is thus uniquely different over the suicide of a son. As such, they require a highly specific cultural counseling approach, which must be handled only by culturally competent clinicians (Hunn & Craig, 2009; Neighbors, et al., 2007; Woods-Giscombe, 2010). This study recommends techniques, which ca prove valuable in structuring specifics programs adapted to this population and for the precise training of select mental health professionals.

The Need for the Study

Introduction of the Problem

The high and still increasing rates of suicide among young African-American males are now official record (CC, 2011). There is now some awareness of what factors lead to the phenomenon but not the consequences of suicide unique to this particular population. These consequences are the grief process and coping styles such as John Henryism that can ameliorate or exacerbate grief in African-American mothers who have lost a son to suicide. Grief is a very private event to them and inheres in them in a unique way (Kaslow, Ivey, Barry-Mitchell, & Franklin, 2009). That privacy is quite likely due the stigma attached to mental illness and suicide and the resultant lack of support for this particular population (Barnes, 2006; Crosby & Molock, 2006; Day-Vines, 2007; Perry, Pullen, & Oser, 2012). The purpose of this study is hence to examine how the factors of perceived stigma due to suicide and attitudes toward suicide directly influence African-American mothers' severity of grief, and if and how John Henryism plays a role in these processes.

The Gap in Research and the Need to Fill it

There is a dearth of literature on such mothers and their unique experience of sorrow. Demographics on this population on this specific phenomenon is non-existent. It is now widely knows that approximately 1,800 African-American males committed suicide in 2012 alone (American Association of Suicidology, 2012), no demographic data on the make-up of the mothers of these individuals are known or can be found. Existing research tends to fall into two categories: (a) parents' psychological response and grief due to the suicide of a child (e.g., Harper, O'Connor, Dickson, & O'Carroll, 2010; Maple, Edwards, Minichiello, & Plummer, 2013; Omerov, Steinbeck, Nyberg, Runeson, & Nyberg, 2013), and (b) children's psychological response and grief due to the suicide of a parent (e.g., Kuramoto et al., 2010; Wood, Byram, Gosling, & Stokes, 2012). And this existing literature primarily or almost exclusively -- focuses on White families.

The overwhelming impact of a male son's suicide on an African-American mothers and the severity of their grief over it have thus not been subjected to rigorous scholarly inquiry despite the already known dramatic and alarming rise in African-American suicide rates (CDC, 2011; Barnes, 2006; Day-Vines, 2007; Utsey, Hook & Stanard, 2007). These studies also do not report or assess the demographics. Studies conducted by Joe and Niedermeier (2008) provide additional support to the lack of study on this population in the subject of suicide. The authors themselves affirmed and recommended the need for further and deeper research on it.

II. Methodology

Purpose of the Study -- this is to determine which variables best explain African-American mother's grief, controlling for maternal socioeconomic status, age, relationship status, depression, and history of suicide in the family. Additionally, the study will seek to assess how the factors of perceived stigma of suicide and the attitudes toward… [END OF PREVIEW]

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