' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Link between Adoption and Suicide is Real

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Link between Adoption and Suicide is Real

Daughter Jane and Lorraine
It was a bracing morning being brought back to reality about how the world see the woman who gave up a child for adoption. Not nicely is the short answer. 

A ten-minute morning interview for drive-to-work radio show in the New York/New Jersey area led to be being mentally whacked for having a relationship with a married man, which I did, and his having an Irish Catholic background was another reason to pile on the  criticism. She gave the listeners advice--don't have an affair with a married man, look where that led for this stupid person I'm interviewing.

We did cover that I found her, that her adoptive parents had already tried to find me, that her epilepsy was almost certainly caused by the birth-control pills I took when I was pregnant but did not know...and then she asked how my relationship with my daughter was today.

I had to say that she died. Since the next question was going to be about that--I told the truth. She died by suicide. Mincing words is not my style. I was able to say some more but since people listening today might come to the blog to read about suicide, I'm excerpting a small section of Hole In My Heart below: 

While there are no good statistics on adoptees who actually commit suicide, research on adopted populations shows that a disproportionate number are likely to. No matter how you slice the numbers, adoption increases the probability of suicide, no matter how many adoptees never have a thought of it, no matter how many adoptees are successful, smart, and may one day end up on the Supreme Court. It is unlikely there will ever be good statistics on how many adoptees commit suicide because “adopted” is not noted on death certificates. 

What we do know is that more adoptees than non-adoptees think about suicide quite often. Google “suicide and adoption” and what pops up is an entry from the medical journal Pediatrics, “Adoption as a Risk Factor for Attempted Suicide during Adolescence.” That study unequivocally states, “Attempted suicide is more common among adolescents who live with adoptive parents than among adolescents who live with biological parents.” The connection between adoption and suicide persisted even after the researchers adjusted for depression, aggression, and impulsive behavior. Not surprisingly, “family connectedness,” whether among the adopted or non-adopted, did decrease the likelihood of suicide attempts. 

Researchers at the University of Minnesota reported that adopted teens were almost four times more likely to attempt suicide than those who lived with their natural parents, even after adjustment for factors associated with suicidal behavior, such as psychiatric disorder symptoms, personality traits, family environment, and academic disengagement. Girls were more likely than boys to attempt suicide. About 75 percent of the adopted teens in the study (more than 1,200, all living in Minnesota) were adopted before the age of two and were foreign born—mostly from South Korea.

This deep dive into suicide and adoption followed a study by the lead researcher and others who concluded that being adopted approximately doubled the odds of having a disruptive behavior disorder and having contact with a mental health professional. Interestingly, international adoptees were less likely to exhibit behavior disorders.

B. J. Lifton wrote that at a seminar for adoptive parents when she brought up the fact that the percentage of adoptee suicide was statistically high, a prominent psychiatrist asked if that nasty bit could be deleted from the tape, which was to be later sold as a record of the talk. Lifton agreed but later wrote she was sorry she had. --from Hole In My Heart

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