Suicide among Youths and Adolescents in Australia

Suicide among Youths and Adolescents in Australia. Suicide is a major public health issue globally and this has prompted the need to understand causative factors, prevalence, and how to prevent suicide especially among the youths. In 2013, over 2500 people committed suicide in Australia where 148 were between the ages of 15 and 19, 22 between the ages of 5 and 14, while 200 were between the ages of 20 and 24 years (Boystown, 2015). As an issue of concern, suicide has an effect on families and friends through guilt and long lasting grief compounded by the fact that the individual was young. The sub-disciplines of cognitive psychology, clinical psychology, personality psychology, and social psychology can help better articulate this public health issue.

Personality psychology

            Under personality psychology, suicide is seen as being influenced by the individuals personality. Baertschi et al. (2018) conducted a study to investigate the role of personality in influencing suicidal ideation based on the interpersonal psychological theory of suicide (IPTS). Outcomes from the study indicate that lower extraversion and higher conscientiousness predicted a capability for suicide. The IPTS theory articulates that suicide ideation comes from the constructs of thwarted belongingness and perceived burdensomeness (Ma et al., 2016). Although the theory does not mention personality as influencing suicide ideation, studies such as by Rodgers and Joiner (2016) and Silva, Ribeiro, and Joiner (2015) show the influence of personality from the perspective of the IPTS theory. Even with this relation, the IPTS theory and the studies on personality fail to show how cognition and other factors are likely to influence suicide in youths.

Suicide among Youths and Adolescents in Australia

Cognitive psychology

            Cognition has been explored as a risk factor for suicidal ideation and suicidal behavior. Burke et al (2016) argue that adolescence is a period of heightened risk for suicide behavior and ideation mainly because the individual is subject to certain cognitive changes. Depending on the individual’s cognitive development level, some adolescents respond to negative affect with suicide as a problem solving approach. Boystown (2015) identify that poor problem solving linked to cognitive development drives individuals into suicide and also appreciates that the individual also has an acquired capability for suicide as encapsulated by the IPTS theory. In response to poor problem solving during the adolescent stage, McNamara (2013) identifies that prevention programs need to focus on the development of resilience to act as a protection against self-harm. Smischney, Chrisler, and Villaruel (2015) also identify that the lack of problem solving skills and positive coping drive the individual into suicidal behavior. Even with the linkage between cognition and suicide, the studies fail to factor in clinical and social psychological factors also influencing suicide ideation and behavior.

Clinical psychology

            The clinical psychology sub-discipline integrates science and clinical knowledge in the understanding of psychological distress. In a study conducted by Zhao and Zhang (2015) on the identification of suicide risks in young adults and adolescents in China, results indicate that young adults are at an increased risk of suicide due to psychological strains linked to age. Importantly, the adolescent and young adult stage is linked to a high propensity for depressive symptoms (Lewis et al., 2014; Sznajder et al., 2013). In clinical psychology, suicide behavior and ideation is linked to mental illness and psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety. The emergence of these disorders is attributable to both personal as well as environmental factors. With the environment playing a significant role in influencing depressive symptoms and mental illness, the social psychology sub-discipline helps project the social influences. 

Suicide among Youths and Adolescents in Australia


Social psychology

            In projection of how social psychology plays a role in influencing suicidal ideation and behavior, Assari (2018) conducted a study to identify multiplicative effects of social and psychological suicidality risks in college campuses. Some of the social factors playing a role in influencing suicide among the college youths include religiosity, financial difficulty, sexual orientation, and violence victimization. While the study focused on youths in the US, the results can be replicated to youths in Australia due to similar environmental conditions for youths in campuses. The multiplicative effects were such as financial difficulty and depression or anxiety, depression and drug use, and problem alcohol use and depression. Much of this is linked to the fact that transition to college is usually stressful and students are likely to feel lonely, lost, inadequate, anxious, confused, and stressed (Eisenberg, Hunt, and Speer, 2013). Similarly, Pedrelli et al (2013) identifies that the social environment may drive the individual into suicide risk factors such as depression, violence victimization, and drug use. As such, social aspects influence suicidal behavior in teens and young adults.

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