In Their Own Words
A 'bigger picture' investigation looking at the motivations of children, adolescents and young adults to attempt suicide.
This program of research led by PhD candidate Ally Nicolopoulos aims to investigate whether current models of suicide, which have predominantly been based on studies of a quantitative nature, capture the same self-reported motives for suicide attempt as studies which use more qualitative means of inquiry.
The first project comprises a narrative review of the literature on the lived experience of suicide attempts, while the second part uses unique innovative methodologies to address current gaps in the field (as identified above).Rationale | History of the project | Project plan | Funding source
The purpose of this project is to investigate the self-reported motives of children, adolescents, and young adults who have had at least one previous suicide attempt. The way in which we have chosen to explore these motives, however, does not categorically 'fit' with what is generally expected in this field. We aspire to collect stories.
We aspire to only report the true recounts of experience. We aspire to give young people an opportunity to speak to us, in their own language, from their own frame of reference. And, we aspire to make the entire process one which is engaging, ethical, respectful and safe, for all young people involved.
Not only have we developed innovative ways to recruit our participants for this study, but also, we have engaged in a thoroughly thought out process of collecting, and reporting, our data. This is a really exciting new direction in youth suicide research.
We are of the opinion that research provides an opportunity for the consumer language to be translated to the rest of the world, often when it otherwise hasn’t. As qualitative researchers, successfully translating the innate unadulterated language of the young suicidal mind is not only our responsibility, but our privilege.
History of the project
The motivation to conduct such a study came from the results of a narrative review conducted last year by the current PhD candidate and colleagues at the Black Dog Institute (Nicolopoulos et al., 2017). The review, which investigated both the quality and quantity of current youth suicide research, found that since 1995, there have been only 17 studies which have sought to understand the suicidal experience from the perspective of young people who have attempted.
Further, it is not only quantity that has proven to be an area of concern for research of this nature, but also quality. The design and implementation of many of these studies was not thorough, and lacked consistency from conception to completion.
We have highlighted that current theoretical models fail to adequately capture the motives for suicide attempt in youth. This may begin to help us understand why our current prevention and intervention strategies are not reducing the number of youth suicides.
However, there is a significant need for more evidence to support this and that can only be attained by increasing both the quantity and quality of studies which follow this line of inquiry. It is with that in mind that this study has been developed.
The purpose of this study is to allow young people with an experience of suicide attempt(s) to tell their story, as per their frame of reference.
Participants will be Australian youth aged between 12 and 25, will have had a suicide attempt in the last two years, and will not be screening at high risk currently. Participants aged between 12 and 15 are recruited through their psychologists, while participants aged between 16 and 25 are recruited via social media.
The recruitment process is the same for both age groups, whereby participants are shown a 4 minute YouTube video, detailing the study and inviting them to participate in the research, and come and tell their story.
Parental consent and psychologist involvement is required for those aged <16. The process, once consent is obtained, comprises a 45 minute semi-structured (minimally prompted) interview, whereby participants are invited to come along and write the four chapters of 'their own story'.
The Anika Foundation and the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Suicide Prevention (CRESP) both sponsor Ms Nicolopoulos as a PhD candidate.