Youth Suicides

Keynote Address
Dr Rickarby's Submission to NSW Inquiry
Dissociation and a Psychiatric Diagnosis
Mothers Mental Health Damage
Ignored Counselling Needs
Origins Presentation Westmead Hospital Conference
The Damaged Adopted Child
Submission to Senate Inquiry
Origins Mental Health Conference Papers
Mental Health of Adopters
Youth Suicides

Origins Inc.

Youth Suicides - A Comparison


A Comparison Between Youth Suicide And Adoption Youth Suicide

The suicide rate of males aged 18 to 24 has trebled in the past 20 years. The suicide rate of teenage adolescent 14-19 year olds has risen by 600% over the last 25 years.


Parental loss in childhood, particularly when it occurs in the first four years of life and involves the loss of both parents, leads to an increase in suicide behaviour. This increase appears to be independent of the subsequent childhood environment.


Some of the factors leading young people to commit suicide are:

Feelings of:
  • Not belonging
  • Abandonment
  • Helplessness
  • Hopelessness

Fear of:

  • Failure
  • Rejection by their family
  • Abuse in the family (such abuse being more common for children living with non-blood related parents).

From the late 1950's to the mid 1970's, tens of thousands of young single mothers were coerced into relinquishing their newborn babies for adoption by strangers. The first of this bumper crop of adoptees turned 15 just over 20 years ago; The last of them are still in the 15-24 year age group.


Adopted children lose both parents early in life, even though this loss is not acknowledged by their adoptive parents and their community. Being adopted by substitute parents, no matter how good they are as parents, does not negate this loss.


Many adoptees feel that they don't belong in their adoptive families, or even that they don't belong in this world, since they didn't know anyone who looks like them. Separation from one's biological mother causes a "primal wound" and results in feelings of abandonment, loss, rejection and powerlessness.

Many adoptive parents have high expectations of the 'perfect' children they adopted (and of themselves as parents), and along with "absence of kinship" this may lead to abuse in the adoptive family. When there are both biological and adoptive children in the same family, the adopted children are more likely to suffer abuse.

A Jesuit Priest, who works with homeless young people in St Kilda, said that of the 147 suicides of young people in the area over the past decade, 142 came from adoption related backgrounds. (Melbourne Age,30.6.93).

We live in a society where children are treated like commodities, where people insist on their "right" to have children but give very little consideration to the rights, and/or welfare of those children. Adopted children have suffered more than most from being treated as possessions. For too long adoption has been used, not as a means of finding homes for children who have lost their parents, but as a means of procuring babies for childless couples who want to "have children".

We cannot afford to keep sweeping the problem under the carpet, pretending adoption, and the secrecy with which it has been surrounded, has not damaged countless children (and their mothers). Our children need help, otherwise more and more will end up deciding that life is not worth living.



  1. The Australian 26/2/1994 (suicide trebled).

  2. Steven Greer, "Parental Loss and Attempted Suicide: A Further Report", British Journal of Psychiatry (1966), 112, pages 465-470.

  3. The Melbourne Age 30 June 1993, (142 of 147 suicides adoption related)

  4. Corinne Chilstrom, "Andrew, You Died Too Soon". (causes of suicidal behaviour, cites eminent suicidologist Edwin Shreidman's book, "Definition of Suicide").

  5. Nancy Verrier, The Primal Wound: Legacy of the Adopted Child".

  6. Marsh Riben, "Shedding Light on the Dark Side of Adoption" ('absence of kinship' may lead to more abuse in adoptive families).

Copyright   Origins Inc, 1995

Origins Inc Supporting People Separated by Adoption