Research has shown that the experience of childhood trauma and the risk of the individual who suffered it attempting suicide in later life (as a teenager or as an adult) are extremely strongly correlated.
A particular study, carried out by Dube et al (2001), which involved gathering data related to this issue, found that those most seriously affected by childhood trauma were a staggering 51 Xs (ie 5100%) at greater risk of suicide attempts as a teenager compared to those who had experienced a settled childhood. As an adult they were found to be at 30Xs (ie 3000%) greater risk of attempting suicide compared to their more fortunate contempories.
Other findings in the study by Dube et al were that about 67% of adult suicide attempts were linked to the experience of childhood trauma, and, also, that about 80% of teenage suicide attempts were connected to the experience of childhood trauma.
THE SPECIAL ADVERSE EFFECT OF EMOTIONAL ABUSE :
The same study also found that the type of abuse that was most strongly predictive of the individual who experienced it making suicide attempts in later life was emotional abuse.
OTHER TYPES OF ABUSE FOCUSED UPON BY THE STUDY :
Dube et al’s study also found many other types of abuse to be powerfully correlated with increased risk of suicide. These were :
– domestic violence
– loss of a parent (eg through divorce or abandonment)
– family member in prison
– parent with mental illness (eg depression
– parent with addiction
– physical neglect
– emotional neglect
– physical abuse
– verbal abuse
POSSIBLE ACTIONS TO TAKE IN LIGHT OF ABOVE FINDINGS :
Given the above facts, it is necessary to ask what may be done to address this tragic problem. I provide some suggestions below :
– more training for those who work with children about the effects of childhood trauma and how best to treat these effects
– more education to be given to the public in general about the effects of childhood trauma
– rather than expel or suspend ‘difficult’ children, schools should keep them in education and provide the appropriate counseling and/or other professional support
– respond more sensitively and compassionately to ‘problem behaviour’ (or, ‘acting out’) by young people, both in schools and other applicable environments.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).