I carried out an extensive literature study on giftedness and suicide and it has been shared in the group Gifted! Knowledge & Research. This topic requires more attention.
This paper is the result of a literature study in 2015 and 2016 concerning suicide among gifted and the status quo of suicide research. The literature on suicide among the gifted is reviewed in depth, and covers the following topics:
- The occurrence of suicide among the gifted,
- An increase in suicidality among the gifted,
- The background of these gifted,
- Their attempts and suicide methods,
- Research methodologies mostly applied to study giftedness and suicidality,
- Signals of suicidality among the gifted,
- Possible interventions for suicidal gifted.
What is apparent from my review is that the literature regarding suicide among the gifted comprises little empirically sound research. However, research does indicate that suicide occurs among the gifted population. It is also apparent that suicide is occurring among the gifted at such a rate, that it necessitates future research to have
- the ability to recognize risks and
- to deploy the most efficient and effective suicide prevention methods.
© Martin Apistola | Stichting Hoogbegaafd!
This post focuses on PhD candidates in the final stages of their PhD. It is a list of issues, conflicts and feelings that may be relevant to and experienced by you, of which some – fortunately not all – are relevant to me, but at least this list is brutally honest and not toned down, because it contains common taboos and topics that have received little attention within the scientific community.
Feel free to add, pick, or discuss issues that are relevant to you. You may (re-)encounter these issues if you instead are finishing a PostDoc or any other temporary academic position. If this is the case, your reflections and additions are also very welcome. It is also interesting to hear about your reasons for leaving or staying in science.
Time, pressure, stress, motivation, health, diversity
- Lack of time to go out with loved ones
- Motivational issues: having the feeling that so much work remains to be done
- The stressful feelings of shame and guilt if you have not been all too productive for one day
- Publication pressure, paper revisions coming back while having to finish other thesis chapters
- Obligations or ‘mandatory expectations’ (especially from those who safely secured a permanent job) you are not allowed to say no to although they obviously (to you) distract from finishing your PhD
- The stressful feeling that you are all by yourself in the scientific community and that your well-being is ignored for the ‘greater good’ of delivering scientific output
- The stressful feeling of exclusion because your research group will go on without you, with your supervisor(s) filling up the gap you will leave with new PhDs, no matter how good you are, and celebrating obtaining the grant(s) that made this possible numerous times, while you are expected to be present at all these celebrations (the into-your-face feeling)
- Dealing with exhaustion or signs of burn-out that you can no longer (entirely) compensate for during the remainder of your PhD
- Personality and character differences between you and your supervisor(s) or other research group members that may start playing a larger role when under the stressful conditions of finishing your PhD, making you feel tolerated yet underappreciated, invisible, unimportant or not really accepted
- Poor communication skills and lack of responsibility of your supervisor
- Traces of academic neo-darwinism in your environment: ignorance or total disregard from (some) colleagues of personality diversity, of mental and physical health diversity, of gender diversity, and/or ethnic diversity, while diversity can make academia a lot more pleasant, innovative, and dynamic
- The choice of remaining in academia versus going on into an industrial or governmental job, or as an entrepreneur, or whatever else that interests you
- The fact that PostDoc funds often have deadlines so you can’t take too long to discover and choose whether you want to remain in science
- The brutal lack of coaching from the science community as a whole, and/or your supervisor towards making choices that are best for you
- Daring to seek help to reinvent yourself anyway, not dealing with it all by yourself, but finding peers instead, like a coach and good friends who may or may not be (former) scientists themselves, people who understand you and acknowledge your needs, unconditionally supporting you and your choices
- Your doubts about going abroad for a long time (being away from your native country / place where you feel at home / being a science nomad / leaving behind friends) if a PostDoc position requires doing so (again), with the possibility of being blamed for having an attitude problem towards the ‘greater good’ of generating scientific output
- The realization that there is a lot of competition rather than collaboration in science and that professors or group leaders (current or future ones) in your area of expertise may not always be a good match for PostDoc collaboration
- The common idea in the scientific community that one should strive to the prestige of becoming a professor, while nowadays they are more and more like managers and some of them become celebrities, and that all other options that may better fit your needs are loudly or quietly considered to be inferior
- The idea that being a visionary is more important for getting a grant proposal approved than being a good person who can coach and motivate early-career scientists well, skills that are not required for obtaining grants
- The realization that there are fewer and fewer academic positions available the higher you would get into the academic hierarchy
- The quiet realization that you may be one of the smartest people in the room, and that some others higher up in the academic hierarchy are not
- If you have made the choice to leave science: finding ways to communicate to your supervisor / other colleagues that you are going to ‘perish’ instead of ‘publish’ more scientific output, despite being a talented researcher
- If you have made the choice to stay in science for as far as funds and other circumstances allow it: how to become a good example and attract and motivate more junior scientists to work on your projects
- If you have spent a lot of time writing a grant proposal that is rejected: how to deal with this blow and choosing if you want to write another one or apply for a PostDoc vacancy instead, or not to try again
- If you are a multipotentialite with many different interests: how to be deliberately unable to make hard choices and to keep on building bridges while you leave other bridges to slowly disintegrate – including an eventual choice not to pursue your scientific or less scientific interests within the system of science
- The family life puzzle: having children, deliberately not having children, deliberately having just one child, or having cats instead, while remaining within or leaving science
- The thoughts of losing your paid job
- The idea that you may have short work contracts and periods of financial insecurity until well into your 40’s if you wish to stay in science
- Obtaining unemployment benefits upon finishing your appointment while you have so many degrees
- The expectation that you should finish your thesis while receiving unemployment benefits because your supervisor has not managed you well and has given you too much to work on, leaving little time to write grant proposals / for future job applications, while there are also rules and obligations for receiving unemployment benefits
© Stichting Hoogbegaafd!
Multi layered complexity.
That would be the simplest summary of what it’s like to be phenomenally mad – my definition for being gifted.
Reluctant to call oneself gifted, on the other hand being a person who is noticeably different in thinking and reacting, often speeding with 3000 km/h through the mind without much consideration of other traffic lanes outside oneself, not to mention misunderstandings and collisions emerged.
Impatience is often interpreted as haughtiness while has nothing to do with being snobbish, for sure there is a thin line between arrogance and just having an pictorial overview of events with a feeling of time wasting inefficiency if the other cannot grasp the summery of what’s going on.
A lot is going on, that’s just the tiny dot and another point is there are a lot of other related points either not mentioning to avoid possible confusions for most people are not skilled in jumping from branch to twig to a sprig and back or perhaps they do but get lost in the verbatim bushes in where miscommunication and misunderstandings stems from.
How I would wish to be a lesser mental monkey and more mundane human being.
Overthinking is another connecting point of being reserved.
It could be protecting oneself from being rejected, slowing down in social traffic (side twig: I dislike communicative traffic jams, without losing focus on the subject I also dissect and analyse the jam), apparently necessary not to override the other.
Welcome in my jungle. We’re jumping back to the original branch although it’s the entire tree which is just as important.
It may appear knotty or difficult jumping through several subjects in communication, the focus remains while at meantime connecting other points and little twigs to the subject.
The incitements or stimuli of every (new) experience comes with intense curiosity and more often ends up with over-excitabilities, wanting to dig deeper, know more, getting to the core and so forth.
Every now and then I get lost in everything I want to know, encounter, reflect, acquaint, meet and see, that’s when the unwillingly shut down happens.
From inner highway to minded monkeys to cohesive cake.
Kuih lapis is a multi layered Malay/Indonesian cake, each layer with its own colour and consistency.
That’s probably how to describe being creative clever, or gifted.
A complex multi-layered steamed cake.
Undoubtedly this is a reminder to slow down on the social intersection preventing my own dissolve on the road of life.
After this has been said I’m going to place back those layers in order and arranging is another layer upon the other multi layers of complexity.
© Jenny | Stichting Hoogbegaafd!
An inspiring, lifelong gifted advocate
Have you heard of Linda Kreger Silverman? No? Well, now you will! The SENG organization, Supporting Emotional Needs for the Gifted, writes the following about her. These are just some highlights. It should be admitted that summarizing a 33-page small font Curriculum is not an easy task!
Linda Kreger Silverman, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist. She founded and directs the Institute for the Study of Advanced Development and its subsidiary, the Gifted Development Center. She also founded Visual-Spatial Resource and Advanced Development Journal. She has studied the psychology and education of the gifted since 1961 and has written over 300 articles, chapters and books, including Counseling the Gifted and Talented, Upside-Down Brilliance: The Visual-Spatial Learner and Advanced Development: A Collection of Works on Gifted Adults. Her Ph.D. is in educational psychology and special education from the University of Southern California.
In their online resource category 100 Words of Wisdom, she states:
Giftedness is not what you do or how hard you work. It is who you are. You think differently. You experience life intensely. You care about injustice. You seek meaning. You appreciate and strive for the exquisite. You are painfully sensitive. You are extremely complex. You cherish integrity. Your truth-telling has gotten you in trouble. Should 98% of the population find you odd, seek the company of those who love you just the way you are. You are not broken. You do not need to be fixed. You are utterly fascinating. Trust yourself!
That sums it all up very well!
To get a glimpse of how inspiring this lady, who has been a gifted advocate for decades, really is, please watch the following keynote presentation at the Bijzonder Begaafd conference on September 28th, 2016, in Nieuwegein, organized by the Dutch Informatiepunt Onderwijs & Talentontwikkeling (SLO):
The shortsightedness of defining giftedness as excellence
At about 30 minutes into her talk, Linda makes some statements about gifted academics. They are very recognizable indeed and have inspired us to create an international group for gifted academics in a competitive world: universities. Feel free to join and if so, please make your academic affiliation known to the moderator.
Awarding “excellence” is what counts in academia – something that can greatly undermine motivation in gifted academics. Rather, gifted individuals go beyond excellence: they are driven by their inner vision of what they themselves are seeking to do or accomplish. The many unusual or unique paths that gifted individuals may take to achieve their goals must be recognized. Instead of a competition for A+ grades and everything they can produce, their intensity, sensitivity, passion, curiosity (love of learning), autonomy and complexity need to be cherished.
Question from the audience:
We often define giftedness in a way that makes it competitive among children. Don’t you think that the word “excellence” already contains something competitive?
Linda on excellence:
I don’t have a negative feeling about the term “excellence” itself. I believe that I strive for excellence; others see it as perfectionism. But excellence has to come from the inside and has to be your own personal vision and mission, and not a set of requirements and expectations of an outer world.
In my personal educational experience, a general attitude existed of ticking the right boxes to be seen as an “excellent” student or academic, or otherwise, an attitude of ignoring achievement all together. It even led to intense bullying and I often changed schools. It was more important to just “be normal”. Special programmes for excellent students, if they are even incorporated at an educational institution at all, still do not always satisfy the needs of gifted learners. The gifted learners who made it to university despite underachieving are still unlikely to be identified as being gifted because of the focus on “excellence”, which is seen as the same thing.
The shortsightedness of defining giftedness by IQ
Question from the audience:
Can giftedness be measured? Some children I work with are declared “non-gifted”.
Linda on false negatives:
We have to understand the difference between false negatives and false positives. Also learning disabilities in gifted children such as sensory processing disorders and dyslexia are factors lowering IQ scores. Getting into a special education programme with an IQ of 130 but not getting in at 129 is not good science. Then you have not understood the standard error of measurement. There is a range in there for a reason. A child tested at 128 can test at 132 the next day. I believe in my clinical judgment rather than scores. Scores may support what I’m seeing, but if they don’t, I don’t believe them. How many of you can see giftedness, stand up?
Most people stand up, but some remain seated. Linda Kreger Silverman:
Trust wat you see, not numbers.
Question from the audience:
Measurement – Can you also measure intensity and sensitivity, or only the cognitive part of giftedness?
An IQ test measures the cognitive, the abstract reasoning. However, there is something else that it measures: the child’s level of advancement. I find a relation between cognitive and emotional development. I do not see giftedness as a diverse set of possible domains – I see it as a global cognitive, emotional, spiritual entity that shows up at birth, a cohesive whole. A child with a 150 IQ doesn’t just have high cognitive abilities, but also a great emotional experience that needs to be understood too. They take their abilities in many different directions.
I personally wonder if children can also be born bad and still score 150.
Question from the audience:
People have the need to measure to prove that something exists. In what way do you think neurological research on this subject can play a role in this?
Linda has mixed feelings:
I don’t know what to think of neurological research. Mixed: I like some of it, and don’t like other parts. But what I do like are the qualitative ways of understanding giftedness.
I share this experience when reading cognitive neuropsychological research. I do not really like research that only focuses on cognitive quantification and indicators of “who rises to the top” – such as deduced from level of education, early-career awards, or numbers of scientific papers published before one’s 30th birthday – and inherently, who doesn’t rise to the top, because it fixates human potential by confining it to achievement rather than the traits of intensity, sensitivity, passion, curiosity (love of learning), autonomy and multi-layered complexity.
Gifted empathy and emotional sensitivity
Question from the audience:
If giftedness is on one side of the spectrum, and mental retardation on the other side, and emotional sensitivity is on the gifted side, does that mean that “retarded” children and adults have very low emotional sensitivity?
Linda explains that the empathy and emotional sensitivity of gifted people are unique:
I don’t mean it that way. I think that intellectually disabled individuals can be very kind. But they are not extremely anxious and aware of people and what’s going on in the world. They don’t lose sleep over a war in another country. With higher intelligence comes the ability to take another person’s perspective, but not all gifted people have empathy. Those who do also have an ability to help problem-solve and can offer different perspectives. The combination of understanding another person’s perspective and the commitment to take action and make this a better world is something that gifted people can give us.
Asynchronous development as a sign of giftedness
Question from the audience, referring to the Dutch artefact of the performal versus verbal IQ score difference:
When a child has an asynchronous development, and his/her siblings are gifted, is it gifted?
Linda has long felt like being part of a secret society when it comes to asynchronous development:
Definitively, an asynchronous child is a gifted child. The whole concept of asynchronous development came into being with a group of my friends and colleagues, who saw giftedness as an internal phenomenon instead of what you produce. We were a secret society for 22 years. Then the book Off the charts came out and the history of The Columbus Group was revealed. Children with learning disabilities who are also gifted are often hidden and humiliated: they have that gifted awareness and sensitivity, the level of their minds.
Speaking for a Dutch audience
Remark from the audience:
I was one of the first, many years ago, who tried to get attention for gifted children in The Netherlands. We fought hard for it. 15 years ago there was a professor who said that you have to be a great achiever to ever call yourself gifted. Luckily we are far beyond that. Thank you!
This is wonderful.
Question from the audience:
Do you experience differences between Dutch and American audiences?
Absolutely. Who works with gifted adults?
A minority stands up.
The biggest difference is that you Dutch people understand that it is a lifelong phenomenon. The rest of the world doesn’t get it: you need to share what you know.
I noticed how very few publications exist about gifted grownups, but fortunately also here Linda has contributed to the body of literature. However, we should realize that there remains a lot of work to be done for the acknowledgement of gifted adults and the detection of gifted students of all ages, including university students.
Inspired by Leta Stetter Hollingworth
Just like me, Linda Kreger Silverman was inspired by a very important predecessor, Leta Stetter Hollingworth. She encourages everyone in the gifted community to get to know Hollingworth and has written a few articles about her (Silverman, 1989, 1990, 1992). They are available in Gifted! Knowledge & Research: just search for “Hollingworth”. Also some of her own works are available. In 1992, Linda wrote:
Leta Stetter Hollingworth (1886-1939), one of the most neglected pioneers of educational psychology, successfully challenged the prevailing scientific doctrine of women’s inferior intelligence. Later in her career she established the field of gifted education, offering the first course and textbook in this area. In her tenure at Teachers College, Columbia University, she contributed major textbooks on mental retardation, adolescent psychology, and specific disabilities, as well as 80 scholarly papers. As the first psychologist in New York City, she helped establish professional standards for the field and was one of the few academicians who promoted and provided psychological services in the schools. She used the schoolroom as a laboratory for research. Her standards for research are exemplary even in modern times. Hollingworth was a courageous early leader in educational psychology who has finally begun to receive the recognition she deserves.