Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD)

Degree Level



Psychological Science


Freeman D. Eads

Committee Member

Dean Clayton

Second Committee Member

Edwin L. Love

Third Committee Member

Robert R. Reilly

Fourth Committee Member

Donald R. Rye


Discouraged youth, youth self-harm prevention, recognition, assessment, intervention strategies


The purpose of the study was to assess sensitivity levels of four career classification groups on attitudinal and specific action variables to the severe discouragement of youthful individuals. Youthful discouragement may be considered the leading cause of death among the young, ages 14 through 24 years of age. Subintentioned and deliberate acts of self-harm resulting from discouragement include death from reckless accidents, substance abuse, eating disorders, suicide, and victim-precipitated homicides.

Adults and peers in proximity of discouraged youth need to be trained appropriately in youthful selfharm prevention. An opinionnaire with three sections was used to assess participants’ sensitivity on attitudinal, demographic, and specific action variables. Four career classification groups were selected for their proximity and relationship to youth.

Human services personnel, the most sensitive, receive professional referrals, but often are not adequately trained in recognition, assessment, and intervention strategies, and, therefore, fail to act appropriately. General educators are continually in proximity, but are less aware and generally untrained in self-harm prevention, failing to recognize and act on fatal warning signs. Vocational educators, in close proximity to youth for longer periods of time, are willing to be supportive of discouraged youth, but are less sensitive and are very apprehensive about dealing with death and professionals. They are prone to deny the existence of the problem. Public safety officials, the least sensitive, have emergency responsibility during brief contact with youth who are equally insensitive. Public safety officials were more reliable on assessment and intervention variables and are actionoriented when they believe there is a crisis. Police investigators were more willing to make suicidal assessments and interventions and make referrals for help more than all other groups, but police investigators were lower in sensitivity and lowest in understanding youthful grief. All groups were low in understanding youthful grief compared with other variables.

Administrators were reluctant to allow their staff to be trained until a death occurred. Then administrators became confused, but would make token training gestures by providing awareness orientation, believing their responsibility would be fulfilled.

All persons should help reduce youthful discouragement and self-harm death from all causes. Such efforts will be cost effective.

ABSTRACT UPDATED March 2020 per request from Author