Suicide Notes of Adolescents: A Life-Span Comparison

By Leenaars, Antoon A; Erik Jan de Wilde et al. | Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, January 2001 | Go to article overview

Suicide Notes of Adolescents: A Life-Span Comparison


Leenaars, Antoon A, Erik Jan de Wilde, Wenckstern, Susanne, Kral, Michael, Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science


Abstract

Utilizing suicide notes as the data source, this study begins to explore some psychological dimensions in adolescent suicide and to identify the differences and similarities of suicide across the life span. The method called for 80 notes, representing four developmental ages (i.e., adolescents, young adults, middle adults, old adults) to be analyzed for specific protocols on eight categories, i.e., unbearable pain, cognitive constriction, indirect expressions, inability to adjust, ego, interpersonal relations, rejection-aggression, and identification-egression. Despite similarities, the results identify that the suicide of teens may be more highly related to cognitive constriction, indirect expressions, rejection-aggression, and identification-egression, than other age groups. Further research beyond the suicides' own narratives, for example, third-party interviews, study of attempters, is needed to replicate and extend the current findings.

Resume

A partir d'une source de donnees constitute de lettres de suicide, cette etude commence a explorer certaines dimensions psychologiques du suicide chez l'adolescent, ainsi qu'a identifier et a definir les differences et les similarites du suicide sur la duree de la vie humaine. La methode emprunte quatre-vingts lettres, ecrites par des personnel appartenant a quatre Ages de developpement (c.-a-d. des adolescents, des jeunes adultes, des adultes d'Age moyen et des adultes ages), qui sont analysees en fonction de protocoles precis c-a-d., la douleur insupportable, la constriction cognitive, les expressions indirectes, l'inaptitude a s'adapter, l'ego, les relations interpersonnelles, le rejet-- agression et l'identification-egression. Malgre les ressemblances, les resultats permettent de determiner que le suicide chez les adolescents peut etre davantage lie a la constriction cognitive, aux expressions indirectes, au rejetagression et a l'identification-egression, que pour tout autre groupe d'age. Une recherche allant au-dela des textes narratifs des personnel qui se sont suicidees, par exemple, des entrevues avec les survivants, des etudes de personnes qui ont fait des tentatives de suicide, doit etre entreprise afin de repliquer et d'approfondir les conclusions actuelles.

Suicide is a major cause of death in the young (Berman & Jobes, 1991; Bertolote, 1993). This event is truly tragic because life expectancy for adolescents is the greatest in terms of both the interval of years lost and the diversity of experience that should await them (Leenaars, 1991). Official suicide statistics, which have been proven to be underestimates (e.g., Jobes, Berman, & Josselsen, 1987), nevertheless show that up to 20% of all male deaths and 28% of female deaths among adolescents in the industrialized world are caused by suicide. Among adolescents, suicide ranks among the first three causes of death. These shocking descriptive statistics are truly alarming, calling for greater research efforts.

Despite increasing research efforts (see King, 1997; Lester, 1992), the psychological factors for suicide in this age group remain largely unexplored. There is a growing body of empirically based knowledge, but, like much of suicidology, these studies are atheoretical (Leenaars, DeLeo, Diekstra et al., 1997) and provide limited insight into the suicidal mind of a young person. There are, in fact, very few studies that are able to give an insight into the reasons why young persons decide to end their lives (King, 1997). In addition, the opportunities that are available for potential explanations, given the very nature of the act, are limited (Maris, 1981). Shneidman and Farberow (1957), Maris (1981), and others have suggested the following sources: mortality data/statistics, the study of nonfatal suicide attempters, third-party interviews, and documents (including personal documents). Most studies in suicide have used one of these methods, with few, if any, using more than one method. …

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