Racism behind suicide attempts

Racism and sexual harassment could lie behind the higher incidence of suicide attempts amongst teenagers adopted from foreign countries.

Girls are particularly at risk, according to a Swedish study which has looked into the problem.

“I’m concerned that racism is a bigger problem than we previously thought,” said researcher Frank Lindblad to TT.

Earlier research has indicated that adopted teenagers from foreign countries are more than four times more likely to attempt suicide than other teenagers.

There are a number of possible factors behind the phenomenon. Society’s prejudice against against people of different appearance can be an important one, according to Lindblad, a researcher at the Institute of Psyhosocial Medicine and a member of the team behind the current study.

Lindblad and his colleagues looked at 13,000 adopted children who were born between 1963 and 1973 and followed them up to 2002. Just over half were born in Sweden and the rest in other countries.

The results show an increased risk in both groups of attempted suicide, but a significantly higher risk amongst the foreign adoptees. Discrimination could be an explanation.

It’s also not unusual for foreign adoptees to have greater problems in finding their identity in relation to their parents and society as a whole.

The situation is most serious for women. Suicide attempts are several times higher amongst foreign female adoptees than amongst Swedish born women of the same age. The difference is big even compared to adopted women with Swedish biological parents.

The research team believe they’ve detected a pattern following interviews with young adopted women of Asian descent.

“People have preconceptions that [women of Asian descent] are promiscuous, prostitutes, have a strong sex drive and are considered to be exotic,” said Frank Lindblad, who believes that such sexual prejudices can be difficult for the women concerned to understand.

The study is published in the scientific journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology.

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