Objective: This study’s objective was determine the incremental association of reasons for living to the lifetime number of suicide attempts in relation to other known risk and protective factors in a sample of psychiatric patients with extensive psychopathology in residential treatment.

Methods: Participants (n = 131) completed a demographic questionnaire that also asked for information about lifetime suicide history, psychiatric history, trauma, and abuse history. Additional measures of resilience, reasons for living (RFL), and impulsiveness were completed.

Results: A history of sexual abuse was associated with an increasing lifetime number of suicide attempts, while a history of physical abuse and trait impulsiveness were not associated with the lifetime number of suicide attempts. Survival and coping beliefs, a subscale of the Reasons for Living Inventory (RFLI), was found to add incremental predictive validity to the number of lifetime suicide attempts. A composite fear variable, combining fear of suicide and fear of social consequences of suicide, was negatively correlated with lifetime number of attempts but did not add incremental validity to the prediction of lifetime number of suicide attempts.

Conclusion: In a sample of participants with significant psychiatric impairment, the protective factor of survival and coping beliefs may be an important barrier to repeated suicide attempts and may be considered a suicide-specific resilience measure. Understanding the psychological processes contributing to the development of such protective factors as resilience, meaning in life, and coping resources is an important area of study and a potential avenue for targeted therapeutic intervention in high-risk populations.

Jane G. Tillman, A. Jill Clemence, Christopher J. Hopwood, Katie C. Lewis & Jennifer L. Stevens
Psychiatry: Interpersonal and Biological Processes, Volume 80, 2017 – Issue 4, 21 Feb 2018