The construction of youth suicide as a community issue within urban and regional Australia



Publication Details

Fullagar, S., Gilchrist, H. & Sullivan, G. (2007). The construction of youth suicide as a community issue within urban and regional Australia. Australian e-Journal for the Advancement of Mental Health, 6 (2), 107-118.


There is a dilemma within the suicide prevention field about the extent to which suicide should be openly discussed as a community issue. Some fear provoking imitation while others think it is essential in order to improve awareness, understanding and appropriate responses to young people's distress. While youth suicide is widely recognised to be an important issue within Australian society, little research has been undertaken on the socio-cultural context that shapes how it is constructed.This article reports on the findings of research within an urban and a regional community in which samples of young people, adults and service providers were interviewed about how youth suicide was viewed as an issue. The study revealed how different rural and urban community identities were connected to suicide through the circulation of media reports, personal stories and the (mis)use of statistics. Youth suicide was constructed through the process of young people talking about it with peers, and adults talking with each other, in ways that often emphasised selfishness, individual failing and stereotyping of marginalised groups. In contrast, professionals largely drew upon notions of risk to identify particular groups.In conclusion, we argue that dominant constructions can have a negative effect on access to services, community mobilisation and support around the issue of youth suicide. There is value in considering how to create dialogue between adults and young people who might benefit from engaging with views other than those of their young friends and classmates. We also recommend a more careful appraisal of the literature on normalisation and imitation.Author(s): Simone Fullagar 1 | Heidi Gilchrist 2 | Gerard Sullivan 3

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