A qualitative inquiry foregrounding young people’s views on connectedness to the community and on suicide in an area of Northern Ireland

: Creative endeavours and challenges

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Abstract

Suicide in Northern Ireland has received increased attention in recent years due to its apparent increasing rate. The Colin area is an area on the outskirts of West Belfast, which has been affected in recent years by a relatively high rate of youth suicide. In my inquiry I aim to explore qualitatively, predominantly through facilitating the voice/s of young people, their perceptions of suicide and their feelings of connectedness to the Colin area. For the purposes of my inquiry I am interested mainly in suicide as a socio-psychological phenomenon, primarily applying Whitlock et al.’s (2014) proposed model of how connectedness potentially confers protection against suicide thoughts and behaviours in adolescents. This model borrows from Durkheim’s (1897) original theorising on social integration, as well as Joiner’s (2009) interpersonal theory of suicide. I explore the norms and values of the young people with whom I am working, specifically in relation to their perceptions of suicide. I seek out how young people perceive suicide in this community, and question whether it has become a normalised behaviour among young people in the Colin area.

The methodology employed for this qualitative inquiry, foregrounds the voice of young people, ages 15-25, adopting focus groups, interviews and some arts-informed, participatory methods as means to capture young people’s views. Linked to the way in which the Colin area is seen to have become habituated to suicide through vicarious exposure, from the perspective of the young people, suicide has become less of a ‘shocking’ behaviour and more ‘acceptable’. There was a universal feeling among young participants that people tend to venerate those who have died by suicide. In terms of connectedness, despite the majority of young people voicing complaints about the Colin area, there was also a sense among many of the young people that it was still their home and many were quite defensive of it. Connectedness to antisocial behaviours was a dominant theme. The thesis concludes by discussing the methodological challenges of conducting this sensitive research, implications of the findings for practice and a series of suggestions are made about how this inquiry may inform further research.
Date of AwardJul 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorRuth Leitch (Supervisor) & John Devaney (Supervisor)

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