Multiracial Suicidality

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The Current Study In light of previous research demonstrating elevated suicide-risk among Multiracial youth and emerging adults, I hypothesized that suicidality would be higher among Multiracial college students when compared with (a) monoracial students assessed in aggregate and (b) monoracial Asian, Black, Hispanic, Middle Eastern/East Indian, and White students assessed as discrete groups. This is consistent with previous research demonstrating elevated suicidality among Multiracial youths and emerging adults. Considering the overall dearth of research on suicidality among Multiracial Americans, and the virtual absence of literature exploring predictors of suicidality among this at-risk group, it is imperative that researchers begin to probe known risk and protective factors and assess their capacity to predict suicidality among Multiracial individuals. Moreover, and in response to previous research calling for a resilience-oriented investigation into alterable predictors of suicidality apropos to this group, it is necessary to begin identifying malleable sources of distress from a strengths-based perspective. Given the aforementioned evidence that Multiracial youth report higher rates of health and mental health problems when compared to their monoracial peers, the current study postulates that Multiracial college students will endorse higher levels of suicide-risk factors and lower levels of suicide-protective factors relative to their monoracial counterparts. I, therefore, hypothesized that relative to their monoracial peers, Multiracial college students would 1) endorse higher levels of search for meaning in life, perfectionism, and perceived burdensomeness; and 2) endorse lower levels of resilience, grit, presence of meaning in life, sense of coherence, social connectedness, and coping self-efficacy.

Here too I assessed monoracial students in aggregate as well as in discrete racial/ethnic groups. I was also interested in the capacity of resilience, grit, meaning in life, perfectionism, sense of coherence, perceived burdensomeness, social connectedness, and coping self-efficacy for predicting suicidality in Multiracial as opposed to monoracial college students. Similarly, I wanted to investigate if certain predictors explained more variance in suicidality among Multiracial college when compared to monoracial college students, and if so, whether Multiracial students’ scores on measures of those predictors differed significantly relative to their monoracial peers. Finally, I was interested in assessing whether, and to what degree Multiracial versus monoracial self-identification moderated relationships between the study’s predictor variables and the distress and suicidality continuum. I examined these last two research questions from an exploratory perspective. Discussion As previously discussed, elevated risk of suicidality among Multiracial Americans has been consistently demonstrated in the literature but heretofore neglected in terms of establishing an evidence-based understanding of the factors associated with suicidality within this at-risk group.

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Rather, past studies have relied largely on post hoc interpretations based on known Multiracial-specific challenges related to belongingness and positive identity formation . While these sorts of stressors almost certainly contribute to elevated distress and suicidality among Multiracial folks, actionable steps toward developing best practices for mitigating and ameliorating suicidality within this demographic cannot be taken until an empirical understanding of the pathways through which Multiracial youths become vulnerable to heightened suicidality is established. This study represents a critical first step in that effort. The first aim of the study was to examine Multiracial students’ distress and suicidality levels relative to monoracial students. Considering monoracial students are far from a monolith, they were compared both as a single group as well as separately based on racial/ethnic group membership. In support of my first hypothesis, and consistent with previous literature, results showed that Multiracial students reported significantly higher distress and suicidality than monoracial students both as a single group as well as when assessed by racial/ethnic group membership. Notably, monoracial groups did not report significant differences in distress and suicidality relative to each other. Previous literature has been inconsistent in identifying racial and ethnic differences in suicidal ideation, but findings from the current study provide some evidence that differences in prevalence across monoracial groups may be modest.

Nevertheless, future research focusing on group-specific factors associated with suicidal ideation is warranted in order to develop more robust models for understanding similarities and differences suicidality across racial and ethnic groups. Beyond contributing to a small but growing body of work demonstrating elevated risk of suicidality for young Multiracial Americans, these results reinforce the need for future research aimed at further unpacking the complex constellation of factors associated with distress and suicidality among this group. The second aim of this study was to compare Multi- and monoracial students on the malleable measures of well-being assessed in the USDAS survey, and determine whether the two groups differed along any of these constructs. Again, Multiracial students were compared both as a single group as well as separately based on racial/ethnic group membership. In line with my second hypothesis and consistent with previous literature suggesting Multiracial youths report higher rates of mental health problems when compared to their monoracial peers, Multiracial students reported significantly higher levels of perfectionism (discrepancy) and perceived burdensomeness, as well as significantly lower levels of resilience, grit (continued interest), meaning in life (presence), sense of coherence, social connectedness, and coping self-efficacy (problem-focused, emotion-focused, and support-seeking) when compared to monoracial students. Interestingly, the greatest disparity between the two groups was found for sense of coherence whereby Multiracial students scored 0.19 standard deviations below monoracial students.

There is no previous scholarship investigating sense of coherence among Multiracials, but it could be the case that the pluralistic nature of Multiracial identity in the context of a society organized along discrete monoracial lines poses a threat to Multiracial Americans’ sense that the world makes sense. For example, Multiracial Americans’ sense of coherence could be compromised by the cumulative effect of confusing social interactions whereby Multiracial individuals’ self-defined racial identity is in misalignment with others’ ascribed monoracial identity (Pedrotti, Edwards, & Lopez, 2008). Over time, these and related experiences could compromise Multiracial individuals’ belief that their social roles are clearly defined, that they can expect predictable social interactions, and that the world makes sense. Also of note, is that the second largest disparity between the two groups was found for social connectedness whereby Multiracial students scored 0.17 standard deviations below monoracial students. Lower average scores on social connectedness for Multiracial students provide additional support for previous research highlighting social connectedness’ positive association with Multiracial-specific challenge factors (i.e., others’ surprise and disbelief regarding racial heritage, lack of family acceptance, Multiracial discrimination, and challenges with racial identity) as well as negative association with Multiracial-specific resilience factors, and position this construct as fertile ground for further exploration in future research. Contrary to my second hypothesis, Multiracial and monoracial college students did not differ significantly in terms of grit (persistence of effort), search for meaning in life, or perfectionistic standards, and in examining differences in scores between Multiracial and other racial/ethnic groups, Asian students reported significantly lower levels of grit (persistence of effort) and greater search for meaning in life.

The third goal of this research was to assess the overall fit of the regression model for Multiracial versus monoracial college students and probe for interactions between Multiracial versus monoracial self-identification and the suicide risk and protective factors assessed in the USDAS survey. Findings were encouraging considering the model explained 45% of the variance for Multiracial students compared to 41% for monoracial students, and suggest that the model was appropriate and well-suited to Multiracial college students. Interestingly, in comparison to monoracial students, perceived burdensomeness, social connectedness, and sense of coherence all accounted for an equal or greater proportion of the unique variance in distress and suicidality for Multiracial students. Moreover, significant interactions were found such that the gap in distress and suicidality between Multiracial and monoracial students was greater at low levels of sense of coherence and social connectedness, but negligible at high levels. A similar trend was found for perceived burdensomeness such that the gap in distress and suicidality between Multiracial and monoracial students was greater at high levels of perceived burdensomeness, but converged as perceived burdensomeness decreased. Considering these constructs were not only elevated and more predictive of suicidality among Multiracial students relative to their monoracial peers, but also appeared to be associated with accelerated rates of increase in distress and suicidality suggests that these factors may be of particular interest for further exploration in future quantitative as well as qualitative studies aimed at better understanding suicidality with Multiracial samples. Additional significant interactions between Multiracial and monoracial groups were found and are displayed visually in appendix C. Notably, a disparity in distress and suicidality between Multiracial and monoracial Black, Asian, and Middle Eastern/East Indian students was found at low levels of emotion-focused coping self-efficacy such that Multiracial students endorsed higher levels of distress and suicidality relative to Black, Asian, and Middle Eastern/East Indian students, but only negligible differences were found at high levels of emotion-focused coping self-efficacy. This finding is worth highlighting due to the prominent role emotion-focused self-efficacy played in predicting 13% of the variance in distress and suicidality among the entire sample, and 14% for Multiracial students. Additionally, emotion-focused coping self-efficacy was significantly lower for Multiracial students relative to their monoracial peers.

Taken together, these findings suggest that coping self-efficacy is an especially critical protection against suicidality for college students generally, but may be particularly crucial as a line of defense against suicidality for Multiracial college students. Fortunately, previous qualitative research conducted by Museus, Sariñana, and Ryan (2015) provides rich and valuable insights into emotion-focused coping strategies that Multiracial people use when they encounter racial prejudice and discrimination (e.g., utilizing support networks and embracing racial fluidity). Higher education and helping professionals would do well to consult these strategies while future research continues to investigate additional strategies with which Multiracial college students’ can bolster their emotion-focused coping self-efficacy, both within and outside the context of prejudice and discrimination. This study is among the first to examine sources of distress and suicidality in a Multiracial sample but is not without its limitations. First and foremost, secondary data analyses are inherently limited by their reliance on data not collected with a mind toward answering research questions posed in subsequent investigations by outside researchers.

Considering the NRCCHE’s large, geographically representative sample coupled with their strengths-based approach to investigating malleable suicide-risk and protective factors, the USDAS survey data was, in many ways, optimal for answering the questions presented in the current study. Nevertheless, the original collection did not include any psychological measures created specifically to investigate the experiences of multiracial people, nor did it include any race-related measures designed to capture the unique psychosocial experiences of students of color. Future exploration will require a theoretical and hypothesis-driven approach informed by findings from the current study in tandem with extant knowledge of Multiracial-specific dimensions of well-being. Secondly, quantitative data does not offer the same richness and depth as other forms of data collection (e.g., semi-structured interviews, focus groups, etc.), and future qualitative as well as mixed-methods inquiry into constructs such as sense of coherence, social connectedness, perceived burdensomeness, coping self-efficacy, and suicidality among Multiracial youths and emerging adults is warranted. For example, future research might employ an explanatory sequential mixed-methods design involving an initial quantitative phase in which data on these constructs is collected, followed by a qualitative data collection phase that expands on results of the quantitative phase and provides a better understanding of the ways in which individual experiences match up with quantitative results. Another notable limitation of the current study was restricting the use of the DSC to continuous scale items.

Considering the primary aim of this study was not to demonstrate elevated suicide-risk among Multiracial individuals, but rather to investigate risk and protective factors within this group, analyses involving the dichotomous, suicidal behavior-related items on the DSC would have required logistic regression analyses predicting suicidal plans and attempts with the main independent variables included in the study. This type of analysis was beyond the scope of the current study but could have provided useful information about predictors of suicidal behavior among Multiracial individuals as well as insights into the relationship between students’ suicidal ideation and their suicidal behavior. Additionally, due to limited sample size and insufficient power, it remains unclear whether certain Multiracial combinations are more or less vulnerable to suicidal ideation. Moreover, findings from the current study may not apply to groups that were excluded from analysis due to insufficient sample size (i.e., Native American, Asian/Pacific Islander, and other race-identified participants). Understanding the unique relationships between well-being and suicidality among Multiracial college students is a critical first step toward developing empirically and culturally-informed interventions from a strengths-based, resilience-oriented perspective. This study presents a more nuanced of how Furthermore, helping professionals working with at-risk Multiracial clients can factor findings from the current study into their approaches to intervention assessing social connectedness and sense of belonging in addition to burdensomeness and clients’ sense that their worlds are predictable, structured, and manageable. Moreover, clinicians and emotion-focused coping self-efficacy considering these constructs explained an equal or greater proportion of variance in suicidal ideation relative to monoracial students.

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Multiracial Suicidality. (2022, Jun 05). Retrieved from

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