Early Parental Loss and Suicidal Ideation in University Students
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This study examined the relationship of early parental loss to suicidal ideation and suicide attempts in a group of university students attending a university mental health clinic. Seventy-five subjects with a history of parental loss before the age of 16 were compared to a control group of 61 subjects from intact homes for the presence of suicidal ideation and overt suicidal behaviour. Subjects with a history of early loss demonstrated significantly more suicidal ideation and more had made suicide attempts than had subjects from intact homes, and this relationship was even more marked when the consequences of the loss in terms of the subsequent family environment were considered. Where the loss resulted in the long-term disruption of family life, suicidal trends were prominent; where the family life stabilized, they were minimal. Suicidal ideation and suicide attempts occurred significantly more often among female subjects than males, and the loss of father and both parents was in excess of loss of mother among those with significant suicidal ideation. The findings support the hypothesis that early parental loss, under certain conditions, is a significant variable in the predisposition to suicidal behaviour and suggest avenues for further research.
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