Project Gives Women Sense of Purpose, Will to Say 'No' To Intimate
by an intimate partner, combined with psychological distress, hopelessness
and substance abuse all greatly increase African-American women's risk
of attempting suicide, which is about six times that of Caucasian women.
Yet with proper intervention
and group therapy, women can be given hope and purpose -- empowering
them to feel optimistic about their future, and making them more capable
of obtaining the resources they need, according to recent findings of
an Emory University School of Medicine study for abused, suicidal African-American
women at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.
The study, funded by the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, focused on the assessment
and treatment of abused, suicidal women, and is one of the few of its
kind to link intimate partner violence (IPV) and suicidal behavior in
As part of the study, which
was presented in November at the SafeUSA Conference in Atlanta, researchers
created the Nia Project: Circle of Hope, a Grady Hospital-based intervention
program. Nia provides education about IPV and suicide, tips for finding
resources, how to enhance social support networks, effective communication
strategies, and problem-solving skills. In addition to the weekly group
program, Nia a Kwanzaa term meaning purpose - also includes a buddy
system and access to a comprehensive resource room. African-American
women ages 18 to 64 who have made suicide attempts and/or have been
in abusive relationships in the past 12 months, are eligible for the
"Our goal is to help women
problem-solve and extricate themselves from problematic relationships,"
said Nadine Kaslow, Ph.D., Emory University School of Medicine professor
in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, chief psychologist
at Grady Memorial Hospital, and principal investigator and founder of
the program. "This project is all about giving women a sense of purpose
The Nia Project is based
on a series of projects conducted at Grady since1993.
The first study conducted
at Grady was published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology
and Depression and Anxiety, and included 285 African-American women
who reported being in intimate relationships; 148 had come to Grady
following suicide attempts; the other 137 came for medical reasons.
Those who had attempted suicide were 2.5 times more likely to report
physical partner abuse and 2.8 times more likely to report nonphysical
(emotional) partner abuse within the prior year. In addition, women
who reported IPV were less likely to engage in suicidal behavior if
they felt they had access to strong social support networks.
In the second study, which
will be published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology
in 2002, researchers sought to determine what factors differentiated
those African-American women with a history of IPV who attempted suicide
from those abused women with no history of suicidal behavior. The sample
was 200 African-American battered women; 100 presented to Grady following
a non-fatal suicide attempt and 100 presented for non-emergency medical
Those who had attempted suicide
experienced numerous and/or severe negative life events, a history of
child abuse or neglect, high levels of psychological distress and depression,
hopelessness about the future, and alcohol and drug problems. The women
who did not attempt suicide felt hopeful about their future, believed
they were effective in their lives, had adaptive coping skills and strong
social support networks, and felt capable of obtaining necessary resources.
Overall, the study concluded
that because battered women often feel powerless, helpless, socially
isolated and economically dependent, many turn to suicide to feel powerful,
express their helplessness and hopelessness, receive attention for their
pain, and/or rid themselves from an intolerable situation.
Now that the Nia Project
is in place, women from all over Grady Hospital meet for 10 sessions
of group intervention. The program is led by two trained counselors
and seeks to empower women with information on suicide and abuse education
and prevention. Each woman also has access to a resource room with reading
materials and other information about domestic violence, suicide, housing,
jobs and education.
To report abuse or a suicide
attempt, or for more information on the Nia Project, please call (404)