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Problematising depression: young people, mental health and suicidal behaviours


  • Bennett, Sara
  • Coggan, Carolyn
  • Adams, Peter


The published literature provides strong evidence for connections between mental health issues, such as depression, and suicidal behaviours. However, in spite of this, no investigations to date have explored young people's perceptions of the interconnections between depression, and suicidal behaviours. This article presents discussive analyses of discussions of the contributions of depression to their suicidal behaviours of young people in New Zealand. Two dominant discourses of depression emerged: a medicalised discourse, and a moral discourse. The medicalised discourse was accessible to the majority of participants, and constructed depression as a disease. This discourse prioritised the voices of health professionals and suggested that depression was difficult to resist. The moral discourse was an alternative to the medicalised discourse, and constructed young people who experienced depression and suicidal behaviours as failures. Both discourses were informed by a mechanistic cause-and-effect relationship between depression and suicidal behaviours: attempting suicide was seen as an inevitable outcome of experiencing depression, and suicidal behaviours were inevitably undertaken by young people who were depressed. Resistance to either of these dominant discourses was problematic, and was best articulated during discussions of the stigma associated with mental ill-health and depression.

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  • Bennett, Sara & Coggan, Carolyn & Adams, Peter, 2003. "Problematising depression: young people, mental health and suicidal behaviours," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 57(2), pages 289-299, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:57:y:2003:i:2:p:289-299

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    Cited by:

    1. Gattuso, Suzy & Fullagar, Simone & Young, Ilena, 2005. "Speaking of women's 'nameless misery': The everyday construction of depression in Australian women's magazines," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 61(8), pages 1640-1648, October.
    2. Roen, Katrina & Scourfield, Jonathan & McDermott, Elizabeth, 2008. "Making sense of suicide: A discourse analysis of young people's talk about suicidal subjecthood," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 67(12), pages 2089-2097, December.
    3. White, Jennifer & Morris, Jonathan, 2010. "Precarious spaces: Risk, responsibility and uncertainty in school-based suicide prevention programs," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 71(12), pages 2187-2194, December.
    4. Eliott, Jaklin A. & Olver, Ian N., 2008. "Dying cancer patients talk about euthanasia," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 67(4), pages 647-656, August.


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