Younger folks’s experiences of suicidal misery in their very own phrases


Suicide is a number one reason for loss of life worldwide in younger folks, while in Scotland it makes up about one-quarter of deaths on this age group (WHO, 2021; Public Well being Scotland, 2022). Nevertheless, how younger folks expertise “suicidal misery” – which the authors outlined because the “emotions and feelings underpinning suicidal ideas and makes an attempt” – is poorly understood.

Prior literature has targeted on analyzing self-harm, suicidal ideas or actions, and danger and protecting elements in a quantifiable format (Hawton et al., 2012; Paul et al., 2015). Range in language and conceptualisations utilized by younger folks to explain their experiences may contribute to difficulties for clinicians within the identification of suicidal misery (Silverman, 2006). Considerations round iatrogenic results (e.g., that speaking about suicide will put the concept in a youngster’s head) may forestall in-depth dialogue about suicide, and contribute additional to stigmatisation (Frey et al., 2016).

Due to this fact, Marzetti and colleagues (2023) needed to grasp how younger folks make sense of their very own experiences of suicidal misery, while acknowledging and centring the inherent “messiness” in a majority of these experiences. The examine aimed to additionally determine alternatives for early intervention for youth suicide and self-harm.

Suicide is a leading cause of death in young people, yet their experiences of suicidal distress are poorly understood.

Suicide is a number one reason for loss of life in younger folks, but their experiences of suicidal misery are poorly understood.


This qualitative examine used in-depth semi-structured interviews, performed with 24 younger folks aged between 16-24 years (imply age = 19.6 years) in Scotland. Contributors represented a variety of social lessons and geographical places, genders, sexual orientations, and ethnicities.

Contributors selected the placement of the interviews, and interviews had been centred round a essential query:

  • “How has suicide affected your life?”.

The authors used visible instruments to facilitate additional prompts, and a number of other security practices had been employed, together with researcher and participant debriefing, path to assets and assist companies, and providing the chance for breaks all through.

To analyse the information, the authors used a reflexive thematic evaluation strategy (Braun & Clarke, 2006; 2021), which included reflexive journaling all through knowledge assortment and evaluation, and creating a preliminary report of themes which was mentioned and refined by the analysis staff. They famous that these practices helped to develop extra theoretical themes and contributed to the central organising construction of the findings.


The authors positioned younger folks’s experiences of suicidal misery, self-harm, and suicide makes an attempt as usually blurred and overlapping, paying specific consideration to the boundaries and distinctions between these that individuals made, how these modified all through their narratives, and scrutinised the potential causes. Three essential themes had been mentioned: (un)/intentionality, (ir)/rationality, and (in)/authenticity.

1. (Un)/Intentionality

The authors discovered that younger folks tended to classify their suicidal ideas in a binary approach, in accordance with their intention to behave upon them. Nevertheless, all through their narratives, an overlap was revealed – individuals tended to think about early suicidal ideas with an absence of intention to behave as not “that huge of a deal”, though they described their frequency and intention altering as time went on. The authors famous that this was per present analysis outlining an “escalating trajectory” of suicidal ideas (O’Connor & Kirtley, 2018).

Variations in language and ideas utilized by younger folks had been additionally recognized; some categorised aborted suicide makes an attempt as simply “suicide plans”, while others categorised aborted makes an attempt as precise makes an attempt, even when deserted. Equally, some characterised self-harm as distinct from suicide makes an attempt, but others described how self-harm might turn into a part of a suicide try or escalate to an try, with overlapping suicidal emotions.

Blurred boundaries relating to intentionality to stay or die had been current, the place younger folks reported being unclear about their intentions earlier than, throughout, and after the incident. The authors famous this contrasts with present literature proposing a “suicidal mode” the place intentionality is obvious and constant (Brüdern et al., 2018), and as a substitute helps the presence of intention ambiguity all through self-harm and/or suicide makes an attempt.

2. (Ir)/Rationality

The authors highlighted additional blurriness in younger folks’s descriptions of the rationality of their experiences of suicide. Usually individuals described their suicidal ideas as resulting from a “causal chain” of difficulties, wherein suicide was positioned as a rational possibility. Nevertheless, they described their suicide makes an attempt as representing an irrational, impulsive act, or a lack of management, in distinction to the “rationality” of suicidal ideas. One participant described:

As soon as I step over the brink, it’s very arduous to then cease myself… it’s such as you don’t have management of your individual physique after that.

To scrutinise such accounts, the authors drew similarities to “mind-body dualism” (Chandler, 2016), the place the “unruly physique” overrode management of the “rational thoughts”. The authors speculated whether or not this variation in narratives could possibly be a dissociative or unconscious response to overwhelming emotional misery or to keep away from the disgrace and stigma of a suicide try.

3. (In)/Authenticity

Younger folks relayed poor experiences of help-seeking and issues about not being thought of “unhealthy sufficient” to warrant skilled assist. Their narratives made distinctions of themselves as somebody who was “authentically” self-harming, slightly than for “attention-seeking”. In addition they mentioned the stress to reveal greater than they needed to assist professionals to exhibit their want for assist. One participant stated:

I needed to speak about like self-harm and issues like that I didn’t actually need to speak about together with her [the GP], as a result of she had already been dismissive, however I felt that is the one approach.

The authors questioned whether or not younger folks felt stress to “authenticate” their self-harm and suicidal misery resulting from these poor help-seeking experiences. They mentioned a “perverse paradox” wherein the anticipation of stigma and internalisation of destructive attitudes resulted in younger folks each downplaying their emotions to keep away from stigma, but additionally feeling obligated to exhibit their “authenticity” to be granted skilled assist.

Negative and dismissive attitudes to help-seeking for suicidal distress can impact young people’s perceived rationality and authenticity of their experiences.

Adverse and dismissive attitudes to help-seeking for suicidal misery can influence younger folks’s perceived rationality and authenticity of their experiences.


This examine highlighted the nuanced relationship between self-harm and suicide for younger folks. The findings additionally strengthened earlier analysis on how dismissive responses to help-seeking and destructive social attitudes might influence younger folks’s future help-seeking (Byrne et al., 2021). General, this in-depth exploration provides additional to the present literature, has necessary medical purposes, and helps the necessity for optimistic help-seeking experiences.

The findings reinforce the need for positive help-seeking experiences and person-centred mental health support.

The findings of this analysis reinforce the necessity for optimistic help-seeking experiences and person-centred psychological well being assist for younger folks liable to suicide.

Strengths and limitations

The authors included an excellent vary of individuals from varied places in Scotland, representing differing gender identities, sexual orientations, and social demographics. The company to decide on interview places could have helped to boost consolation among the many individuals. Nevertheless, they famous it was probably that individuals who took half had been extra snug discussing their experiences of suicide and self-harm, which many different younger folks could not. Thus, the authors acknowledged that future analysis might use extra or various strategies to seize younger folks’s views who could not really feel snug with a face-to-face qualitative methodology.

It might have additionally been helpful to incorporate some crucial reflection on the authors’ positionality, roles, biases, and influences as a part of the evaluation and knowledge interpretation course of, probably as a supplementary piece. The principle writer famous they engaged in reflexive journaling practices all through the evaluation and writing, and it could have been useful to see some examples of how this labored in motion, or to share some reflections that they had.

Lastly, though not a part of the qualitative framework the examine used, it could have been an fascinating and helpful addition to measure individuals’ pre- and post-interview temper, ranges of misery, and notably suicidal emotions. This data could have been in a position to contribute additional literature on the security of in-depth interview strategies with younger folks on the subjects of suicide and self-harm. It might additionally present proof that analysis strategies on delicate subjects, when performed ethically and safely, don’t essentially contribute to elevated suicidal misery or generate hurt, which has been beforehand raised as issues within the literature, regardless of proof displaying in any other case (Biddle et al., 2013; Blades et al., 2018; Muehlenkamp et al., 2015).

Examples of the authors’ reflective journaling and epistemological approach to the data could further shape the interpretation of young peoples’ narratives.

Examples of the authors’ reflective journaling and epistemological strategy to the information might additional form the interpretation of younger peoples’ narratives.

Implications for apply

The authors recognized a number of necessary medical apply implications and alternatives for youth suicide prevention:

  1. Clinicians and different serving to professionals ought to prioritise the significance of optimistic disclosure and help-seeking experiences. In addition they have to recognise the potential for lasting impacts of destructive experiences on younger folks’s future help-seeking, internalised stigma and disgrace, and suicide prevention. Any formal help-seeking contact represents an necessary alternative to forestall escalation of suicidal misery.
  2. Clinicians must be aware that early suicidal ideas, even with out an intention to behave, can progress over time and be an necessary early intervention alternative.
  3. Clinicians shouldn’t assume shared meanings of language utilized by younger folks to explain their suicide and self-harm experiences. As an alternative, they need to critically study the language utilized by younger folks and intention to discover shared which means collectively.
  4. Clinicians ought to discover younger folks’s experiences of suicidal misery, make clear intent, and the number of roles of self-harm can play for a youngster, being aware of overlap and blurriness. The authors beneficial that self-harm must be understood as neither “essentially contributing to, nor defending, younger folks from suicide.” General, clinicians ought to take an individualised, person-centred strategy to work with younger folks with suicidal misery.
Clinical applications include the exploration of the language used by young people and constructing a shared meaning.

The various medical purposes of this analysis embody the exploration of the language utilized by younger folks and developing a shared which means.

Assertion of pursuits



Major paper

Marzetti H, McDaid L, O’Connor R. (2023) A qualitative examine of younger folks’s lived experiences of suicide and self-harm: intention, rationality and authenticity. Little one and Adolescent Psychological Well being 2023.

Different references

Biddle L, Cooper J, Owen-Smith A. et al (2013) Qualitative interviewing with susceptible populations: people’ experiences of taking part in suicide and self-harm primarily based analysis. Journal of Affective Problems 2013 145(3) 356–362. [PubMed abstract]

Blades CA, Stritzke WGK, Web page AC. et al (2018) The advantages and dangers of asking analysis individuals about suicide: a meta-analysis of the influence of publicity to suicide-related content material. Scientific Psychology Evaluate 2018 64 1–12. [PubMed abstract]

Braun V & Clarke V. (2006) Utilizing thematic evaluation in psychology. Qualitative Analysis in Psychology 2006 3 77–101.

Braun V & Clarke V. (2021) Thematic evaluation: a sensible information. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.

Brüdern J, Stähli A, Gysin-Maillart A. et al (2018) Causes for residing and dying in suicide attempters: a two-year potential examine. BMC Psychiatry 2018 18(234) 1–9.

Byrne SJ, Bellairs-Walsh I, Rice SM. et al (2021) A qualitative account of younger folks’s experiences looking for care from emergency departments for self-harm. Worldwide Journal of Environmental Analysis and Public Well being 2021 18(6) 2892.

Chandler A. (2016) Self-injury, drugs and society: genuine our bodies. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Frey LM, Hans JD, Cerel J. (2016) Perceptions of suicide stigma. Disaster 2016 37(2), 95-103. [PubMed abstract]

Hawton Okay, Saunders KEA, O’Connor RC. (2012) Self-harm and suicide in adolescents. The Lancet 2012 379(9834) 2373-82. [PubMed abstract]

Muehlenkamp JJ, Swenson LP, Batejan KL. et al (2015) Emotional and behavioral results of taking part in a web-based examine of nonsuicidal self-injury: an experimental evaluation. Scientific Psychological Science 2015 3(1) 26-37. [PubMed abstract]

O’Connor RC & Kirtley OJ. (2018) The built-in motivational-volitional mannequin of suicidal behaviour. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Organic Sciences 2018 373(1754) 20170268.

Paul E, Tsypes A, Eidlitz L. et al (2015) Frequency and features of non-suicidal self-injury: associations with suicidal ideas and behaviors. Psychiatry Analysis 2015 225(3) 276–282. [PubMed abstract]

Public Well being Scotland. (2022) Scottish suicide data database: Suicide amongst younger folks in Scotland.

Silverman MM. (2006) The language of suicidology. Suicide and Life-Threatening Habits 2006 36(5) 519–532. [PubMed abstract]

World Well being Group. (2021) Suicide.

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