Date of Award

Winter 2009

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Director

Theodore P. Remley, Jr.

Committee Member

John A. Nunnery

Committee Member

Vivian McCollum


Suicide is a deliberate act of annihilation against one's self due to a crisis of problem solving. Far too many youth are dying by their own hands resulting in suicide being the third leading cause of death for 10-19 year olds (CDC, 2005). Suicide is particularly problematic for adolescents due to the impulsivity inherent in adolescent development. Since 1980, the national suicide rate of African American youth has increased by 114 percent (CDC). Suicidality has been positively correlated with depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD; Kessler et al., 1999). Suicidality is more prevalent when a person experiences a tragic or traumatic event (SAMHSA, 2009). Traumatic stress is increasingly being experienced by students, especially those living in urban environments (Bell, 2007). Traumatic stress left untreated can cause numerous problems for a developing youth (National Child Traumatic Stress Network, 2006). The intention of this study was to determine whether traumatic stress more accurately predicts suicidality than major depression or posttraumatic stress disorder in urban high school students identified as possibly at risk for depression or suicide. An additional question that will be explored by this study will be whether the student is willing to participate in counseling services provided in the school setting. The data were archival and from the 2008-2009 school year. The sample was ninth grade students who scored as possibly at risk for depression or suicide on the Brief Screen for Adolescent Depression. Binary logistic regression was the statistic used in this study. Traumatic stress appears to be a predictor of suicidality in urban ninth grade students possibly at risk for depression or suicide, over and above a major depressive episode or PTSD. The results of the analysis indicate that the majority of students, 75%, reported that they are willing to participate in school based counseling services.