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Exploring links between past adoptions and suicide

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Stories of depression and suicidal thoughts were common among adoptees and birth parents participating in a study conducted by James Cook University social work senior lecturer Dr Susan Gair.

The study involved gathering anecdotal evidence through interviews with birth parents, adoptees and adoptive parents.

Dr Gair said her study showed that previous adoption processes were not ideal and that recent reforms will go a long way to improve future adoptions situations.

"In February, The Adoption Bill 2009 was introduced into Queensland Parliament, granting more flexibility and choices to people involved in adoption. This Bill brings Queensland into line with other Australian states," she said.

"Theorising about past adoption practice can and should inform clinical practice and future adoption legislation and policies," Dr Gair said.

Dr Gair said the study revealed distressing stories of depression, suicide attempts and completed suicides.

"There were common themes in the stories: powerlessness, feelings of rejection, despair and hopelessness," Dr Gair said.

“Many of the participants discussed how they felt required to silently suffer these feelings as society dictated a level of gratitude and shame associated with adoption."

Some of the stories told by birth parents reveal that at the time of the adoption, they were told they had no rights and were told to just "get on with (their) lives".

"Some adoptees discussed feelings of depression, of being a ‘second class citizen’, and of having ‘borrowed an identity’. One adoptive parent discussed how her child died by suicide after being unable to face more rejections," Dr Gair said.

The report also featured stories where participants identified "turning points" which were described as having "saved (their) life". These incidents mostly involved finding a link with their birth parents/children, meeting a grandparent or finding a match on the Internet.

(Source: James Cook University: April 2009)

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Posted On: 31 March, 2009
Modified On: 16 January, 2014


Created by: myVMC