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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 19  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 266-270

Suicide in the Context of Adolescent Development: What Humanitarian Actors Can Do

Seconded by Save the Children to the UNICEF-led Global Child Protection Area of Responsibility, Spain

Correspondence Address:
PhD Koen Sevenants
Seconded by Save the Children to the UNICEF-led Global Child Protection Area of Responsibility, Koen Sevenants, Calle Blanquerna 50, 3-1, Palma de Mallorca, CP: 07003
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/INTV.INTV_8_21

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The author reflects from his own personal experience as a survivor, child psychologist and humanitarian on causes of suicidality among adolescents and prevention strategies. Suicide ideation or attempted suicide is a symptom of underlying issues that complicates developmental tasks. This personal reflection summarises the developmental tasks facing adolescents, carrying out a mental review and the search for self and separation from parents. The author describes major factors that complicate the completion of these developmental tasks in humanitarian contexts. He then discusses action for prevention on two levels: (1) Prevention through the creation of a social ecology that provides the basis for children’s healthy mental and psychosocial development and in which they have the highest chance of succeeding at resolving complicated development tasks. (2) Prevention of further harm when an adolescent has reached the level of ideation, has planned suicide or has already made a suicide attempt. For the first level, he uses Winnicott’s concept of “the holding environment” to guide various humanitarian aid sectors on suicide prevention. For the second level, he stresses the importance of overcoming a sense of isolation and the need for a long-term engagement in which verbal and nonverbal approaches are combined.

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