Making sense of suicide: a discourse analysis of young people's talk about suicidal subjecthood

Katrina Roen, Jonathan Scourfield, Elizabeth Sarah McDermott

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Though there is a substantial body of literature on youth suicide, relatively few studies provide a detailed analysis Of Young people's own understandings of suicidal behaviour. The present research pays particular attention to how young people make sense of suicide, in the understanding that suicide only becomes possible insofar as it is imaginable. Interviews and focus groups (including 69 participants in total) with people aged 16-24 years provide the empirical material for this study. Research participants were recruited across a range of ethnic groups and sexual orientations, and drawn from rural and urban areas in the North of England and South Wales. Four frameworks for understanding youth suicide are discussed in this paper. These frameworks of understanding variously (i) Cast suicidal subjects as Other, (ii) highlight suicide as something that is accessible to young people, (iii) demonstrate the desire to rationalise suicidal behaviour, and (iv) define suicidal subjects in terms of their relationships with others. The interwoven meanings that run through these four frameworks, and their connection with existing literature, are discussed and the implications for suicide prevention are indicated. (c) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2008


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