Child and Adolescent Suicide Risk Following the Chernobyl Disaster

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Abstract

Several studies dedicated to the psychiatric consequences of the most well-known incidences of radioactive contamination and exposure have noted elevated suicide risk among the victims of these events. The Chernobyl accident, which happened in Ukraine in 1986, spurred deep concerns on this front, especially regarding children and adolescents. These concerns extend to include those who were in utero at the moment of exposure. While the link between exposure and some neuropsychiatric disturbances has been confirmed among these children, the effect on suicide risk among them remains unclear. Unfortunately, at the pertinent time, youth cohorts were not under longitudinal study to assess the link between suicide and Chernobyl exposure. Therefore, suicidality in adolescents affected by Chernobyl and the role of radiation as a factor in suicidal behavior remains controversial and needs more thorough investigation. However, there is a high probability that these contingents have suffered from the psychosocial stress that followed the disaster, including fear and anxiety over health issues, forced and hectic evacuation, and various complications associated with adaptation to new living conditions. Another related issue was the vivid discussion of radiation exposure in scientific and non-scientific media, concerns shared amongst parents, and incomplete or misleading information disseminated to the wider public, which may have victimized an entire generation. Those who were born during or shortly after Chernobyl are about thirty years old today and psychiatric disturbances and suicidality among them may bear signs of Chernobyl. However, a lack of objective exploration on the subject has hampered a more definitive conclusion about suicidality in this contingent. What follows is a discussion of related research to date and projections for what more might be done.
Translated title of the contributionРиск суицида среди детей и подростков вследствие Чренобыльской катастрофы
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAn International Perspective on Disasters and Children's Mental Health
Subtitle of host publicationIntegrating Psychiatry and Primary Care
EditorsChristina W. Hoven, Lawrence V Amsel, Sam Tyano
PublisherSpringer Nature
Chapter11
Pages219-230
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-15872-9
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-15871-2
StatePublished - 15 Jul 2019

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