Identifying Protective Factors to Early Suicide Markers : The Buffering Effects of Savoring and Resilience


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Identifying Protective Factors to Early Suicide Markers: The Buffering Effects of Savoring and Resilience is a well-researched Social and Behavioral Sciences Thesis/Dissertation topic, it is to be used as a guide or framework for your Academic Research.


Suicide continues to be one of the leading causes of death in the United States, which highlights the need for researchers to identify protective models through longitudinal designs (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2019). Importantly, suicide prevention strategies are more efficacious when they target early indicators of suicide and consider risk and protective factors.

Desire for death, the combination of thwarted belongingness and perceived burdensomeness proposed by the interpersonal-psychological theory of suicidal behavior (Van Orden et al., 2008), is one such early marker of suicidal behavior. A protect factor is methodologically defined as one that demonstrates an inverse relationship and temporal precedence in predicting an outcome variable, as well as reduces the effect of stress on an outcome (Vagi et al., 2013; Steca et al., 2014).

Two potential positive psychological resources that may serve as protective factors for the desire for death are savoring the moment and resilience. The purpose of the current study is to evaluate whether savoring the moment and resilience serve as protective factors for the desire for death in a sample of community adults. The study employed a three-wave longitudinal design, where participants completed an online survey once every 2 months.

Data were collected from an initial sample of 812 community adults, with a final sample of 248 participants who completed all phases of data collection. Stress exhibited fluctuating effects on desire for death cross-sectionally but demonstrated a significant positive relationship with desire for death in longitudinal models.

Savoring the moment was inversely related to the desire for death scores cross-sectionally and over time, but did not buffer the relationship between stress and desire for death cross-sectionally or over time. Resilience was negatively associated with the desire for death at Time 1 and Time 2, but not Time 3. Additionally, there were no significant interaction effects between stress and resilience on the desire for death at any time point or across time.

These findings highlight the importance of savoring the moment and resilience in reducing risk to early markers of suicide; however, other factors may better explain the conditional effects of stress on the desire for death.


Suicide is a serious public health issue that accounts for over 800,000 deaths worldwide each year, equating to one death every 40 seconds (World Health Organization [WHO], 2014). Although suicidal behaviors are prevalent throughout the lifespan, some groups are more vulnerable than others.

For instance, in 2017, suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals aged 10-34 in the United States (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2019). American adults aged 18-29 report higher rates of suicidal thoughts, suicide planning, and attempts to die by suicide compared to adults over the age of 30 (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration [SAMHSA], 2014).

Moreover, full-time college students aged 18-22 years report similar rates of serious thoughts of suicide (8.0%) and suicide plans (2.4%) compared to non-college attending adults in this age group (8.7 and 3.1%; SAMHSA, 2014).
Given these disturbing rates, investigating early suicide markers is an important area of study.

Although the current state of suicide prevention is useful, a major shortcoming is a conceptualization of suicide as a decisive act, rather than a trajectory of emerging threat and danger (Langhinrichsen-Rohling, Klibert, & Williams, 2011). Suicide entails a complex, linear process of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that interact over time to increase the likelihood of death by suicide (Joiner et al., 2009).

Suicide markers, such as feelings of disconnection from others and lack of self-worth, are often neglected because they occur in the earlier stages of the suicide trajectory. Previous suicide attempts, typically occurring later in the trajectory, are the strongest risk factors for both future suicide attempts and deaths by suicide (Fowler, 2012).

A single attempt increases the risk of future attempts by up to 30% and the risk of death by 10% five years later (Haukka, Suominen, Partonen, & Lönnqvist, 2008). Therefore, if prevention plans are suited to identify at-risk individuals earlier in the suicide trajectory, clinicians may be able to reduce the overall prevalence and incidence of suicide as a whole.

As such, the investigation and identification of early indicators of suicidal behavior are crucial in guiding appropriate and effective suicide prevention strategies. The literature on suicidal behavior is largely focused on identifying risk factors, while devoting minimal attention to factors that protect individuals against the development and exacerbation of suicidality.

Protective factors are those that exhibit inverse relationships as well as temporal precedence in predicting an identified outcome (Vagi et al., 2013). Additionally, a variable is considered to be protective when its presence reduces the effect of stress on a clinically related outcome (Steca et al., 2014). Identifying protective factors is as equally important as detecting risk factors in order to increase the holistic effects of suicide prevention and intervention programs (Muehlenkamp & Gutierrez, 2004).

One understudied platform to identifying protective factors is positive psychology. Broadly, positive psychology is the study of happiness and well-being (Lambert, Passmore, & Holder, 2015). The focus is on enhancing pleasure and promoting overall satisfaction with life through the development and reinforcement of positive psychological resources (Fredrickson, 2001).


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Social and Behavioral Sciences

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