Suicide and the gifted adolescent
Hyatt, Laurie Alison
MetadataShow full item record
In this qualitative case study focusing on a gifted adolescent female who took her life at the age of 18 using a firearm, the researcher investigated the personal, environmental, and cultural variables that may have contributed to her suicide. Data was collected from interviews, documents, and other artifacts, including a videotape which was a compilation of events throughout Amber’s life. This was a psychological autopsy in which the thoughts, feelings, and actions of a brilliant yet tormented young female were studied after her death by suicide. The purpose was to determine what factors led her to end her pain by choosing death over life. Some of the findings were similar to previous research findings on 1) the etiology of suicide in major theories, 2) the social and emotioinal issues faced by gifted adolescents, and 3) the findings of previous psychological autopsies of gifted adolescents. Themes discovered from this research study were crystallized into five major themes, including bullying, nonconformity, lack of trust, fears, and low self-esteem. Within these major themes, specific findings concerned individual traits, environmental factors, and the historical and cultural context. Individual characteristics such as high intelligence, creativity, unconventionality, perfectionism, and idealism were described. Environmental factors including being bullied, relationship difficulties leading to feelings of alienation, and lack of trust in adults seemed to be contributors to the suicide of this gifted female. Cultural influences, including the stresses of having high achievement goals, the pressure to conform, and some of the music of the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s were considered in the overall description of Amber’s life and the formulation of her perceptions. Arranging life events in chronological order added to the clarity of the findings. Implications include recommendations for further research on traits and cultural messages which increase vulnerability to suicide in gifted adolescents.