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Monday, November 24, 2008

Youth Suicide

Tiffany, a student in the Disability and Diversity Certificate, writes:

Youth suicide is a major public health problem in the United States today. Youth between the ages of 15 to 24 are more likely to die from committing suicide than from all natural causes combined (National Center for Health Statistics, 2000). Suicide is the third leading cause of death in children and youths. A review of the literature suggests that students with disabilities may be at higher risk for suicidal ideation, especially students with depression, mood disorders or undiagnosed disabilities (McBride & Siegel, 1997).
Very little information is available regarding the prevalence of depression or suicide in students who receive special education services, although relationships between cognitive disabilities and depression and between diminished problem solving abilities and suicidal behavior have been noted. Medical problems have also been associated with depression and suicide. Estimates of the prevalence of depression or symptoms of depression among children and youth with learning or behavior problems tend to be higher than those for the general population (Guetzloe, 1991).
The research literature in the area of suicide reveals that there are two important interrelated factors that correlate with suicide rates: being young and being disabled. Being physically disabled has an effect on the tendency towards committing suicide. Young people who are disabled have the desire to build social relationships w/ others, but sometimes, their physical condition may be a deterring factor in creating and maintaining relationships and may create obstacles. In turn, young people with disability may not involved themselves in relationships with others or others may not want to have a relationships with them, which can lead to social isolation and thoughts of suicide (Burcu, 2007).
Guetzloe (1991) wrote that evidence of a specific psychiatric disorder and other disabilities may contribute to suicidal ideation and possibly be overlooked by educators. Educators should have the responsibility to increase awareness, prevention and intervention activities at their schools and should know how to access local resources and expertise should they encounter a student who has expressed suicidal thoughts or feelings.


Burcu, E. (2007). Disability and youth suicide: A focus group study of disabled university students. The Review of Disability Studies: An International Journal, 3(1), 33-48. Retrieved November 10, 2008 from

Guetzloe, E.C. (1991). Suicide and the exceptional child (Report No. E508). Reston, VI: ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED340152)

McBride, H.E.A., & Siegel, L.S. (1997). Learning disabilities and adolescent suicide. Journal of Learning Disabilites, 30, 650-659.

National Center for Health Statistics. (2000). Deaths from 282 selected causes by 5-year age Groups, race, sex: Each state and the District of Columbia, 1995-1998. Retrieved on November 10, 2008 from

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