Negative Life Events and Suicidal Behavior in College Students: Conditional Indirect Effects of Hopelessness and Self-compassion

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Approximately 43% of college students report experiencing suicidal ideation in the past year, and suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among college students, making it a significant public health concern. Development of successful suicide intervention and prevention strategies is predicated on identification of risk (e.g. negative life events, hopelessness) and protective factors (e.g. self-compassion) that may be targeted for treatment. A well-established linkage exists between life stressors and suicidal behavior; however, potential mechanisms of action underlying this association are under-researched. It may be that negative life events contribute to feelings of hopelessness, which is conceptualized as negative beliefs and expectations about one’s self and future. However, not all persons who experience negative life events and hopelessness become suicidal, perhaps due to protective factors such as self-compassion. Comprised of self-kindness, mindfulness and sense of common humanity, self-compassion may contribute to emotional resilience when negative life events occur; however, this premise has not been previously examined. We hypothesized that hopelessness would mediate the relation between negative life events and suicidal behaviors, such that negative life events would be related to increased feelings of hopelessness and, in turn, to greater risk for suicidal behavior. We also hypothesized that self-compassion would beneficially moderate the mediating effect of hopelessness. Our sample of college students (n=338) were primarily female (67%; n=227) and White (89.6%; n=294), with a mean age of 21.8 years (SD=4.7). Participants completed self-report measures including the Life Events Scale, the Beck Hopelessness Inventory, the Suicide Behaviors Questionnaire - Revised, and the Self-Compassion Scale. Supporting our hypotheses, hopelessness fully mediated the relation between negative life events and suicidal behavior (DE=.07, SE=.06, 95% CI=.05,.28,p


Johnson City, TN

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