Honors Projects


Approximately, 47,173 people in the United States died by suicide in 2017, making it the 10th leading cause of death. Although middle-aged adults have the highest rate of suicide, 20.2 per 100,000, older adults (i.e., individuals 60 years and older) closely follow with a rate of 20.1. Adolescent age groups have much lower rates for suicide: a rate of 14.46 per 100,100 in 2017 (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 2017). The risk factors that affect adolescents and older adults are similar in some ways, but they differ in one major aspect: impulsivity. The issues that can be said to ‘cause’ suicidal ideation and suicide attempts in teens stem from problems that often are amenable to change (e.g., coping skills). In contrast, older adults tend to experience risk-factors that they cannot control and cannot change (Strandheim et al., 2014). As the rate of suicide has increased steadily, the film industry has mirrored that increase, but often focuses on adolescent depictions (Jamieson, 2003). I examined two depictions of suicide, one from an older adult perspective and one from an adolescent perspective: Clint Eastwood’s character in Gran Torino and Brittany Murphy’s character in Girl, Interrupted, respectively. My analysis of these films show that older adults deal with distinct issues associated with their distinct life course stage. This suggests the need for specific research on older adults’ risk-factors, which cannot be generalized from the larger body of literature on suicidal risk during the life stage of adolescence.



First Advisor

Robin Dufresne

First Advisor Department


Second Advisor

Abby Braden

Second Advisor Department


Publication Date