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Salud mental

versión impresa ISSN 0185-3325


JIMENEZ TAPIA, Alberto; MONDRAGON BARRIOS, Liliana  y  GONZALEZ-FORTEZA, Catalina. Self-esteem, depressive symptomatology, and suicidal ideation in adolescents: results of three studies. Salud Ment [online]. 2007, vol.30, n.5, pp.20-26. ISSN 0185-3325.

Suicidal behavior has different levels: ideation, contemplation, planning and preparation, attempt, and consummation. Likewise, suicidal behavior comprises all the actions aimed at achieving suicide.

During adolescence there is a tendency to a reduction of emotional well-being. Thus, adolescents may engage in dangerous behavior, extreme narcissism and individualization, exclusion and social isolation.

Another element playing an important role during adolescence is self-esteem. Low self-esteem could lead to apathy, isolation, and passivity. Conversely, high self-esteem is associated with more active lives, a greater control over circumstances, less anxiety and greater capacity to cope with internal and external stress.

Although there are other factors that could predispose adolescents towards suicidal behavior, certain studies have identified depressive symptomatology as the most powerful and independent risk factor in suicidal ideation and it has been argued that it should be regarded as an expression of severe depression.

The purpose of this study is to explore the existence of a relationship between low self-esteem and depressive symptomatology with suicidal ideation and to explore if gender has an effect in this interaction. Data were obtained from three different samples of Mexican adolescent students. The instruments used were the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, the CES-D, and the Roberts Suicidal Ideation Scale.

Women showed a higher frequency of low self-esteem than men in two studies. In another, men had a significantly higher frequency of low self-esteem. Regarding depressive symptomatology, women obtained higher scores than men. No significant differences were found in one study. The percentages of high suicidal ideation displayed greater variability by gender and by study. Among the subjects who reported high suicide ideation, a greater proportion of women tended to have low self-esteem, though these differences were not significant in any study. Over half of the women in each study reported higher suicidal ideation and depressive symptomatology than men, with significant differences only among junior high students in two studies.

The exploration of the link between depressive symptomatology and high suicidal ideation showed significant differences by gender, a finding which might be linked to the fact that women are more allowed to express their depressive or fatalistic feelings and thoughts or death wishes, whereas among men this type of ideas are perceived as a sign of weakness.

Gender-related differences in low self-esteem were only found in one study; men had a higher percentage than women.

The comparison of low self-esteem in subjects with high suicidal ideation did not reveal any statistical difference by gender, despite it has been identified as a risk factor for suicidal behavior. In the other hand, results of depressive symptomatology concurred with international literature about this being a determinant factor in the presence of suicidal ideation in women.

Considering the objective of this study, three main conclusions can be suggested. First, low self-esteem is not significantly linked to suicidal ideation, perhaps because it is a risk factor more associated with suicidal behavior. Second, depressive symptomatology was related to suicidal ideation, and although this relationship and the one between depressive symptomatology and self-esteem have been reported before, it is important to note that there seems to be a domino effect among these problems. This effect could begin with depressive symptoms linked to suicidal ideation, which in turn could affect self-esteem, and subsequently trigger suicidal behavior. And third, differences between men and women raise the question of whether these are caused by intrinsic characteristics in a biological-genetic substrate inherent to each gender or whether they are determined by the cultural context and the formative patterns existing in the groups to which the subjects belong.

Palabras llave : Self-esteem; depressive symptomatology; suicidal ideation.

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