Summer jobs prevent suicide

U Iowa LogoPsychologists have been aware for some time that teen suicide is "contagious" - if a youth knows someone who attempts suicide, it increases his or her risk as well. Even if a friend of a friend makes an attempt, a teen is more likely to consider suicide to be an option. A study to be published in the September 2009 issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior suggests that teens with a summer job are less likely to be suicidal. The research, which was conducted at the University of Iowa, found that working a paid job for 20 or more hours per week was more protective than living with both parents, attending church, participating in sports, or holding a job during the school year. For youths under 16, working for only 10 hours per week was protective against the friend-to-friend contagion of suicide. The researchers surmise that working in the summer reduces isolation and substance use while improving self-esteem; in addition, summer employment doesn't conflict with schoolwork.

The study showed that the protective effect of a summer job only occurs if teens are not exposed to other stressors. The researchers highlighted the risk of on-the-job harassment, which might occur because youths are inexperienced and easily replaced.

Spring is definitely a good time to begin thinking about summer job opportunities. In May, competition from university students will increase, so April is an opportunity to hand out résumés and interview with employers before positions are taken. Reader's Digest suggests that teens will need to be realistic about the kinds of summer positions that are available - half of summer jobs are in restaurants, hotels, and retail. Parents can be an essential resource for their teens. Other tips for parents include:

  1. Work with your child to find their strengths
  2. Help your child to prepare a résumé
  3. Practice before doing interviews
  4. Be open-minded and check multiple options
  5. Provide encouragement and help your child to cope with rejection

Do you have any tips to help teens find summer work? Leave us a comment.

You can read more about the study here. The Reader's Digest article can be found here.

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