Cultures and Suicide Studied

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Researcher Dr Erminia Colucci from University Of Queensland, Australia surveyed students across three continents in an effort to understand the social representations, as well as values, beliefs, attitudes that are associated with youth suicide.

Colucci interviewed almost 700 students aged 18-24 in Italy, India and Australia. Each was to reveal differences and similarities within cultures in regards to not only meanings of suicide but social representation. "First, there were differences in prevalence with more Italian and Australian youths indicating they think about suicide, compared to Indians," she said. "In contrast, Indians reported more suicide attempts, followed by Australians and then Italians.

For Indian culture, financial problems were among the most important reasons for attempting suicide. For Australians mental illness like depression or anxiety were more important. Finally loneliness or interpersonal problems was what came up for talians.

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"Australia generally sees suicide as a result of depression or some other mental health issues, but I don't believe that mental illness is all there is to it, what at the end leads to suicide may be depression, but the depression might come out of another issue," she said. "My interest is for those other issues that have generated the feelings that life is not worth living and suicide is the only way out.” She continued. "it's also about what makes life worth living, what makes people hold on in difficult times, and spirituality above all."

Dr Colucci's research is gaining big interest from social groups not just locally but from abroad. In working with the University of Melbourne, she recently developed a set of suicide first-aid guidelines for community groups in Japan, India and the Philippines, and is currently looking for sponsors to prepare a unique art exhibition showcasing Australian artist's experiences with suicide.

She said that the exhibition is about using art as a medium to "understand" suicide, give voice to the community and finding reasons to live. "My approach is about listening, to understand suicide from their point of view by using art for research and for advocacy and prevention."

Her research may help millions throughout the world begin to understand more about suicide culturally and create more outreach and help for those youth who are suicidal.

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