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Out of Despair – providing solutions to break the pathways leading to violent, suicidal and drug-induced deaths of young people (Young Despair)

The Out of Despair research concortium aims to generate a new, comprehensive knowledge base of youth in despair by applying and developing a method of social autopsy. This includes an extensive examination of the pathways of young people who died or nearly died from violent, suicidal, or drug-induced causes. By investigating deaths and near-death experiences of people under 30 years old, we are looking for ways to prevent risk behavior and to increase well-being and equality of young people. The common work of the consortium is divided to work packages (WP).

Risk behavior and services – viewpoint of young people at risk (WP5) is the research project that is carried out by the Youth Research Society and the A-Clinic Foundation. The research focuses on service use of hard-to-reach youth, but also common factors, cultural environments and social mechanisms behind overdoses, severe violence, and suicidal behavior. The aim is to build more understanding on three types of causes of deaths among Finnish young adults with substance use problems who had experienced severe violence, non-lethal overdoses, or suicide attempts.

Different data sets are used to increase understanding of the world of young people and risk factors related to life situations. Ethnographic fieldwork is conducted in low threshold services directed for youth who actively use drugs. Hard-to-reach young adults are interviewed on their experiences of overdose, violence-related situations or suicide attempts, occasionally using a photovoice method. The data is supplemented by interviewing staff of low threshold services.

Additionally, the experiences of young people are examined using anonymous chat conversation data. Anonymous discussions between young people and a counsellor in online chat reflect young people’s thoughts and service needs expressed in their own words from their perspective. Young peoples’ experiences of despair are studied as an online phenomenon through discussions related to suicide. See also a linked project CHAT-YOUTH.

Long-term follow-up of former patients with SUD has become possible by digitalized register-based data and follow-up study on Criminality, Health and Taxation of Inpatients and Outpatients entered into Treatment for Substance Use (RIPE). The data provides means to assess the life-course after intensive early treatment.

Funding and partners

Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, leader of the consortium Pekka Hakkarainen
University of Helsinki / Faculty of Social Sciences, Janne Kivivuori
Tampere University / Faculty of Social Sciences, Sami Pirkola
Finnish Youth Research Society, Tuuli Pitkänen
University of Turku / Department of Computing, Leo Lahti
A-Clinic Foundation, Jouni Tourunen

Funded by The Strategic Research Council (SRC).

Out of Despair webpage in English.

Start year:
End year:

Alix Helfer

Master of Social Sciences
+358 44 493 1441

Profile of the researcher

Tuuli Pitkänen

PhD, Adjunct professor
Research Manager
+358 41 517 8678

Profile of the researcher