PtG Article 08.11.2005

Sport can prevent suicide amongst the young

Sport can stem the rising tide of youth suicides in many countries according to Australian National University's Colin Tatz. In a presentation to the Play the Game conference, he explained that sport opens the doors of social inclusion to those who feel cruelly excluded.

Colin Tatz said that youth suicides now characterised such countries with indigenous native populations as the USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia where the word for deliberately killing oneself was once foreign to the aborigines' vocabulary.

And that eight-year-olds are actually trying to commit suicide highlights just how desperate the situation is, he said, asserting that each suicide is "a slap in the face of civilisation."

It used to be argued once upon a time that you needed to be "mad, bad or sad" to contemplate suicide, he said, adding that the generally assumed link between depression and suicide was, however, much less than a conclusively proven fact.

"Very often, it's exclusion which influences the decision and though a lot of money is being spent upon suicide prevention across the world, it's not the same thing as immunising someone against a disease with a vaccine," he said.

Research, he claimed, had shown that non-athletic youths were more likely to try this extreme step than athletic ones. Considering that sport today has the centrality national cultures once had, Tatz said that sport could play a life-saving role in modern society by "postponing or deflecting the idea of suicide."

The professor was asked how he accounted for the high youth suicide rates in many countries where participation in sport was widespread as in Denmark and Hungary. He replied that sport in its contemporary presentation was an artifice whose multifarious, multi-tier links with an assortment of fringe interests often served to lead it away from its real purpose. 

Colin Tatz from Australia does research into the role of sport in preventing sucide amongst the young.


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