An article, written by Principal Clinical Psychologist Colby Pearce, which originally appeared on Colby’s blog site Attachment and Resilience.
In this, the last post for a little while about my historical publications concerning youth suicide and mental health, I want to introduce you to the following paper: Pearce, C.M., & Martin, G. (1993). Locus of Control as an Indicator of Risk for Suicidal Behaviour Among Adolescents. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 88 : 409-414.
Locus of control represents the extent to which an individual attributes causality for what happens in their life to their own actions (internal) or extraneous factors (external). At the time of writing this article I thought that having a pervasively external locus of control when bad things happen in life would predispose a person to a kind of helplessness depression (Seligman); hence my interest in it’s possible contribution to understanding suicidal feelings and behaviours among adolescents. I now know that wrongly attributing too much responsibility to oneself for bad events that happen in a person’s life can result in depression and associated suicidal feelings. I suspect, however, that in contrast to those with an external locus of control, those with an internal locus of control are more likely to take the view that they can act effectively to change their circumstances without resorting to suicidal acts; hence the effect observed in this study.
The implication for treating suicidal individuals is to assist them to experience a sense of potency and influence over outcomes in their life.
The paper was the first published in Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, which I recall was the eighth most widely read psychiatric journal in the world at that time. Google indicates that the article has been cited 58 times in the 20 years since its publication.