Connectedness and Adolescents (Part 2)

March 13, 2015

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark Research

In the February 27, 2015 issue of the Weekly Spark, our research summary explored the conclusions of a literature review about how social connectedness influences suicidal thoughts and behaviors among adolescents. This week we will explore the implications of those findings for suicide prevention practice: that is, strategies that may increase connectedness in ways that protect young people from suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

According to the authors of the literature review, research suggests that connectedness within the family has more impact on a young person than connectedness in contexts further from the individual (e.g. the community). However, they also note that some research has found the number of social contexts to which a person feels connected to be more important than where these connections occur. The authors argue that this finding has important implications for prevention as it is often easier to create supportive school and peer environments than to create supportive family environments.

Based on their review of connectedness research, the authors suggest that the following strategies may help protect adolescents from suicidal thoughts and behaviors: (1) Expand social networks that connect young people with adults; (2) create opportunities for young people to seek help (e.g. in schools); (3) increase the likelihood that parents, peers, and school staff will recognize and appropriately respond to warning signs that a young person is emotionally distressed or at risk for suicide; (4) expose adolescents to norms and attitudes that promote coping and help-seeking; (5) increase young people’s “positive emotion,” which will stimulate the production of neurochemicals that enhance both the ability to solve problems and the regulation of emotions; and (6) increase young people’s opportunities to experience “belonging and utility in a community of others.”

This summary is from: Whitlock, J., Wyman, P., and Moore, S. (2014). Connectedness and suicide prevention in adolescents: Pathways and implications. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior 44(3): 246-272.