According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2020 suicidal behavior was the third leading cause of death among adolescents worldwide, occurring in 90% of cases in adolescents from countries with low and medium socioeconomic levels.
Suicidal ideation and behavior in adolescents have become a public problem that is requiring a wide effort to know how and when to prevent it.
One of the protective factors against suicidal ideation and suicidal behavior in adolescents is emotional intelligence—a series of skills that people put into action to make use of their emotions and to better identify, use, and manage their emotions. In fact, a statistically significant association has been observed between low emotional intelligence and high suicidal ideation in adolescents.
Researchers Héctor Galindo and Daniel Losada, from the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) have studied the mediating and moderating effect of peer support, family support and teacher support in the relationship between emotional intelligence and suicidal ideation in teenagers. The study, carried out with 898 adolescents, has concluded that “there is indeed a direct effect of emotional intelligence towards suicidal ideation, but this occurs largely because adolescents with greater emotional intelligence are able to perceive to a greater degree the support they receive from teachers, family members and peers. And this is precisely what helps them reduce their suicidal ideation: correctly perceiving the support they are receiving”, they explain.
Héctor Galindo (left) and Daniel Losada. (Photo: UPV/EHU)
The importance of social support
Similarly, the results of the study show that family support influences the relationship between emotional intelligence and suicidal ideation. As the researchers explain, this relationship varies depending on the degree of family support that a person is receiving: “If a person at home does not have any kind of family support, even though they have a high level of emotional intelligence, that does not Helps reduce your suicidal ideation. Having medium or high family support, however, helps an emotionally intelligent person reduce suicidal ideation more than a person with low emotional intelligence.
Likewise, the results show that peer support helps emotional intelligence reduce suicidal ideation only with older adolescents: “When an adolescent is 12 years old, peer support is not as important as when an adolescent is already 15 or 16 years”. And with regard to teacher support, the study has concluded that “an adolescent with high emotional intelligence will be able to greatly reduce their suicidal ideation, regardless of the perceived teacher support; in the same way that a person with low emotional intelligence will develop serious difficulties in reducing their suicidal ideation, regardless of the perceived teacher support ”.
In this sense, Galindo and Losada emphasize that working on emotional intelligence in the classroom is very important, “but it is even more important that these people really perceive a high degree of social support. Hence the importance of also introducing the participation of families in learning processes, as well as promoting quality relationships between peers, to reduce one of the main causes of adolescent death, as is the case of suicidal behavior. Teachers must really take into account and promote as far as possible the level of support that an adolescent is receiving from their environment, since, if that person is receiving low social support, it could be the case that, even if we work transversally or disciplinary emotional intelligence in class, did not have the expected effects to reduce one of the main causes of adolescent deaths, as is the case of suicidal behavior ”, they conclude.
The study is titled “Emotional intelligence and suicidal ideation in adolescents: The mediating and moderating role of social support.” And it has been published in the academic journal Revista de Psicodidáctica. (Source: UPV/EHU)