Experimentally-enhanced perceptions of meaning confer resilience to the interpersonal adversity implicated in suicide risk

Khan R.L. Collins, Melissa N. Legendre, Werner G.K. Stritzke, Andrew C. Page

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Background and Objectives: The interpersonal theory of suicide proposes that perceived burdensomeness and thwarted belongingness (PB-TB) are proximal causes of suicidal desire. Here we test whether experimentally induced perceptions of meaningfulness can confer resilience against interpersonal adversity and enhance persistence, the erosion of which is a potential antecedent to suicide risk. Methods: Undergraduate university students (N = 93) were randomly allocated to complete a team task under conditions of high or low task-extrinsic meaning and high or low PB-TB. Participants in the high task-extrinsic meaning condition were given the opportunity to donate to a charity as part of their experimental participation, whereas those in the low task-extrinsic meaning condition were not. Results: Consistent with the buffering hypothesis that suicide resilience is active only when adversity is heightened, participants in the high task-extrinsic meaning condition who reported higher levels of perceived meaningfulness displayed greater willingness to persist in the face of experimentally-induced high PB and TB compared to those in the low task-extrinsic meaning condition and those in conditions where the interpersonal adversity was not induced (low PB and TB). Limitations: The meaning induction was effective only in a subset of participants. The dual induction of PB and TB also precludes inferences about their independent causal effects on willingness to persist. Conclusions: Meaning-making interventions may attenuate the impact of proximal interpersonal antecedents of suicidal desire. Enhancing resilience in this manner can potentially improve the efficacy of prevention efforts beyond the direct amelioration of suicide risk factors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)142-149
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
Volume61
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018

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