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Young Peoples Understandings of Suicidal Possibilities: Taking a discourse analytic approach Katrina Roen Institute for Health Research, Lancaster University.

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Presentation on theme: "Young Peoples Understandings of Suicidal Possibilities: Taking a discourse analytic approach Katrina Roen Institute for Health Research, Lancaster University."— Presentation transcript:

1 Young Peoples Understandings of Suicidal Possibilities: Taking a discourse analytic approach Katrina Roen Institute for Health Research, Lancaster University In collaboration with: Jonathan Scourfield, Cardiff University Elizabeth McDermott, University of York ESRC-Funded Research: RES

2 Ours is not the first study to consider how people make sense of youth suicide, understanding that it is: this process of meaning-making that situates people's parameters for action... (Wexler, 2006, p.2940).

3 DATA ANALYSIS TABLE Willigs six stages 1 How are the discursive objects constructed? 2 Locating instances where the same discursive object is constructed in different ways. 3 How do the discourses work in relation to one another? 4 What is gained from constructing the discursive object in this particular way? What subject positions are offered by the constructions we have identified? 5 How do the identified discursive constructions and subject positions open up or close down opportunities for action and limit what can be said or done? 6 This stage in the analysis traces the consequences of taking up various subject positions for the participants subjective experience. (p.175) What can be felt, thought, and experienced from within the subject positions identified?

4 Frameworks for understanding youth suicide: (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.

5 Its just like if you wanted to find out how to kill yourself you can just type it in Google (P13: Female focus group participant) Most of my friends have tried to commit suicide, so Im used to it. (P 7: LGBT focus group participant) I kind of think its kind of a bit normal when people try and kill themselves these days … My boyfriend describes it as like a kind of a kind of a trend cause hes, we know, both know so many people whove tried to kill themselves like a lot (P13: Female focus group participant)

6 Melanie: … Like everyone knows someone who has attempted it or who has died from it or you know, theres always, it is there and I would definitely say that sort of you know, its sort of like the right of every teenager to be dramatic. … Melanie: most of the time it is just you know, something that crosses your mind, I wouldnt say its something that a lot of people consider or actually consider or actually do, but it is [pause] Researcher: There. Melanie: Yeah.

7 Melanie: Um I mean I think, I think really the biggest problem is the fact that young people arent taught to look at the good side of the things. … Yeah, I mean, its sort of like, I think its more to do with the whole dramatic thing where we want something to be wrong, if that makes sense. Researcher: No it does make sense, absolutely. Melanie: We sort of need meaning in our lives.

8 Example from Stage 1 for Melanies interview How are the discursive objects constructed? Suicidal possibilities Melanie describes suicide as something that is ever present in the awareness of young people. It is present as an idea, a possibility, but not usually as something one would actually attempt. Meaningful lives Melanie suggests that there is a sense of drama to which young people gravitate – that young people have a right to this sense of drama. Melanie seems to understand this desire for emotional drama and crisis as stemming from the need for meaning in ones life.

9 Example of Stage 3 for Melanies interview How do the discourses work in relation to one another? Young people have a right to be dramatic and to do things that make their lives more meaningful, even if that means over- dramatising lifes difficulties. Suicidal possibilities are omnipresent but most people do not really consider acting on them. The quest to make their lives more meaningful, and the tendency to dramatise problems, may make suicidal behaviour more accessible to some young people.

10 DATA ANALYSIS TABLE Willigs six stages 1 How are the discursive objects constructed? 2 Locating instances where the same discursive object is constructed in different ways. 3 How do the discourses work in relation to one another? 4 What is gained from constructing the discursive object in this particular way? What subject positions are offered by the constructions we have identified? 5 How do the identified discursive constructions and subject positions open up or close down opportunities for action and limit what can be said or done? 6 This stage in the analysis traces the consequences of taking up various subject positions for the participants subjective experience. (p.175) What can be felt, thought, and experienced from within the subject positions identified?

11 Example of Stage 4 for Melanies interview What is gained from constructing the discursive object in this particular way? Young people are figured as gravitating towards things that give meaning to their lives, even if that means taking a dramatic approach to their problems, wanting things to go wrong, rather than tolerating the relative meaningless of things just being mundane and enduring. According to this understanding, things being dramatic, awful, life- threateningly unbearable at least gives them meaning. What subject positions are offered by the constructions we have identified? Framing suicide as something that all young people think of gives permission for suicidal possibilities to be entertained without this being a sign of pathology or immorality. What is opened up here is a suicidal youth subject position – this is not about picturing all young people as actually being suicidal but it is about picturing young people as potentially able to contemplate suicide as a possibility.

12 Suicidal behaviour as a rite of passage (Russell, Bohan, & Lilly, 2000) suicide as a regrettable reaction towards some common problems of life (Thorslund, 1992, p.152) The way that youth carries negative connotations may contribute to a sense of not being valued, and feeling hopeless (Bourke, 2003)

13 Suicidal possibilities as an integral part of a young persons struggle to find meaning in life?


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