Re-Thinking Youth Suicide: Language, Culture, and Power


  • Jennifer White School of Child and Youth Care, University of Victoria
  • Michael J. Kral School of Social Work, Wayne State University



In this article we set out the context and provide the theoretical resources for re-thinking youth suicide as a sociocultural, political, and relational issue. Drawing on recent high profile youth suicides as reference points, we aim to illuminate some of the complex relational processes and sociopolitical conditions that may make some lives more ‘unlivable’ than others. We adopt a social constructionist perspective to argue that experiences of distress, understandings of self, and knowledge about suicide are not stable and objective entities awaiting discovery. Rather, they are brought into being through historically and culturally specific social practices, including language, discourse and relations of power. We then turn to more recently developed cultural frameworks and social justice orientations as a way of bringing the much neglected topics of culture and power into the scholarly conversation about youth suicide. We conclude by exploring some of the implications for practice and policy that might follow from these reformulations.


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How to Cite

White, J., & Kral, M. J. (2014). Re-Thinking Youth Suicide: Language, Culture, and Power. Journal for Social Action in Counseling & Psychology, 6(1), 122–142.