Document Type

Honors Paper


Audrey Zakriski

Publication Date



This thesis aimed to study how exposure to peer suicide may relate to current adjustment and attitudes towards suicide. Eight-five young adult graduates of the same public high school in the northeast who were exposed to multiple peer suicides as adolescents filled out an Attitudes Towards Suicide Scale, Scale of Perceived Social Support, reported their level of agreement with Thomas Joiner’s suicide myths, and completed the Texas Revised Inventories of Grief for each peer lost to suicide. Grief was relatively low in this sample, but related to number of peers lost to suicide and closeness to those peers. Exposure to suicide (measured by grief scores and closeness ratings) was positively correlated with the belief that suicide is not preventable. Social support moderated both the relationship between closeness and grief, and the relationship between closeness and attitudes towards suicide; closer individuals with higher social support reported more grief than those with low social support, but less endorsement of certain suicide myths. Comparison of this sample to a sample of 63 students who had attended various public high schools in the northeast but had not been exposed to multiple suicides revealed that those who had not been exposed to multiple suicides were more likely to believe that suicide is not normal and were more likely to report feeling unprepared to prevent suicide than those with high exposure. The cumulative impact of suicide on peer cluster survivors, the self-protective function of certain suicide myths, and the role of peer support in coping with peer suicide emerge as important themes for discussion and for future research on this topic.



The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author.