Optimistic Explanatory Style as a Moderator of the Association Between Negative Life Events and Suicide Ideation

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Background: Individuals experiencing negative and potentially traumatic life events are at increased risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors; however, suicidal outcomes are not inevitable. Individuals who attribute negative life events to external, transient, and specific factors, rather than internal, stable, and global self-characteristics, may experience fewer deleterious outcomes, including suicidal behavior. Aims: This study examines the moderating effect of explanatory style on the relationship between negative life experiences and suicide ideation in a college student sample. Methods: A total of 138 participants (73% female) were recruited from a rural. Eastern college and completed a self-report psychosocial assessment. Results: Optimistic explanatory style mitigates the influence of negative and potentially traumatic life events on thoughts of suicide, above and beyond the effects of hopelessness and depression. Conclusions: Beliefs about the origin, pervasiveness, and potential recurrence of a negative life event may affect psychological outcomes. Optimistic explanatory style was associated with reduced suicide ideation, whereas pessimistic explanatory style was associated with increased thoughts of suicide. Optimistic reframing of negative life events for clients may have treatment implications for the prevention of suicidal activity.