This chapter examines some of the economic and social roots of youth suicide and suicide attempts. It presents two stories, the first reported by Rene Diekstra and the second witnessed by one of the authors. Between December 30, 1996 and July 22, 1997, there was a suicide epidemic in the white, predominantly low-income community of South Boston, Massachusetts. The community was perceived by many observers, both insiders and outsiders, as having been deeply stressed and demoralized by recent and rapid social changes such as high rates of poverty, organized crime, substance abuse, welfare reform, and drug epidemic. These two stories foreshadow several questions that are addressed in this chapter: What social stressors are associated with the rise in youth suicide? What is the role of other high-risk behavior in prompting crises leading to suicide? What is the role of peer pressure or social contagion in youth suicide? The chapter examines these issues of suicide and suicide attempts using two sources of data: Vital Statistics data on youth suicides and the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health (AddHealth).
Keywords: youth suicide; suicide attempts; Boston; Rene Diekstra; social changes; peer pressure; AddHealth
Chapter. 18617 words. Illustrated.
Full text: subscription required