C.P.SOH1, T.J.GOH1, N.S.J.LIM-ASHWORTH1, A.H.Y.HO2, C.G.LIM1
Institute of Mental Health1, Nanyang Technological University2
The phenomenology of coping in adolescent suicide attempters is nascent in the literature, urging the contribution of first-person narratives to expand the understanding of coping behaviours in suicidal phenomena. This study explores the lived experiences of young female suicide attempters in relation to their coping mechanisms.
With appropriate consent, semi-structured interviews were conducted individually with ten female adolescents, aged between 15 and 18, who had been admitted to the child and adolescent psychiatric ward after their suicide attempts. Interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analysed using thematic analysis.
Themes that emerged for coping behaviours were classified into two categories: 1) “Reactive Coping”, and 2) “Proactive Coping”. Themes pertaining to reasons for various coping behaviours were further classified into three categories: i) “Escaping Stressors”, ii) “Tolerating Stressors”, and iii) “Tackling Stressors”. Participants reported engaging frequently in reactive coping, which includes strategies such as self-harm, distraction by keeping busy and expression of self, as means to avoid stressors or find emotional relief. Less than half of the participants reported engaging in proactive coping, namely employing positive reappraisal, and anticipatory planning, with the aim to prevent or lessen the impact of stressors.
Adolescents’ perceptions and experiences of their coping responses suggest a need to examine individual, psychosocial and environmental factors that could have influenced the reciprocal relationship between coping ability and suicide. The effectiveness of their coping mechanisms in the context of perceived intensity and severity of stressors that precipitated their attempts will need further evaluation.