The occurrence and influencing factors of suicidal ideation among people with care experience: A cross-national comparison between England and Germany

Petra Göbbels-Koch

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people worldwide (World Health Organisation, 2014). People with care experience have an elevated risk of suicidal ideation and behaviour and dying by suicide compared to those without care experience (Evans et al., 2017).
However, the existing empirical information on suicidal ideation among care-experienced people, particularly young adults leaving care in England and Germany, is scarce. An in-depth understanding of factors influencing the development and coping strategies is required to help inform suicide prevention strategies within the care systems tailored to young people in care and the transition to adulthood. Furthermore, it remains unclear whether the knowledge about this topic applies beyond national borders due to the lack of cross-national comparative studies about suicidal ideation among people with care experience.
Therefore, this thesis addresses the following research questions: what is the occurrence of suicidal ideation among care-experienced young adults in England and Germany? Which factors do care-experienced young adults perceive as influencing suicidal ideation? This thesis applied a mixed-methods approach, consisting of a survey and semi-structured interviews with care-experienced adults from England and Germany, to answer these questions. Joiner’s interpersonal-psychological theory of suicide (IPTS) informed the study, focusing on interpersonal factors influencing suicidal ideation. This study is the first that applied this suicide theory to people with care experience.
This study shows that the occurrence of suicidal ideation among care-experienced people is complex. Many participants reported having experienced suicidal thoughts from a young age and during the transition from care to adulthood. The results underline the importance of belongingness and caring relationships for care-experienced people.
This innovative thesis aims to deepen the understanding of suicidal ideation among care-experienced people in England and Germany. The findings highlight the necessity of holistic suicide prevention based on trauma-informed practices within the care system.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Gupta, Anna, Supervisor
  • Bain, Katrin, Supervisor, External person
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Sept 2022
Publication statusUnpublished - 2022


  • care experience
  • suicidal ideation
  • care leavers
  • leaving care
  • England
  • Germany
  • young people
  • suicide prevention
  • foster care
  • residential care
  • children in care
  • children's homes
  • framework analysis
  • Mixed-Methods
  • suicide theory
  • IPTS
  • Belongingness
  • Suicide risk
  • INQ
  • Suicide ideation and behaviour
  • Young adults
  • Young adulthood
  • cross-national
  • Joiner
  • Trauma Informed Care & Practice
  • Social work
  • Children Social Services
  • semi-independent living
  • socio-ecological model
  • Siblings
  • transition from care
  • Transition to adulthood
  • mental health

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