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Monday, February 7, 2022

On loving thyself: Exploring the association between self-compassion, self-reported suicidal behaviors, and implicit suicidality among college students

Zeifman, R. J., Ip, J., Antony, M. M., & Kuo, J. R. 
(2021). Journal of American college health
J of ACH, 69(4), 396–403.


Suicide is a major public health concern. It is unknown whether self-compassion is associated with suicide risk above and beyond suicide risk factors such as self-criticism, hopelessness, and depression severity. 

Participants: Participants were 130 ethnically diverse undergraduate college students. 

Methods: Participants completed self-report measures of self-compassion, self-criticism, hopelessness, depression severity, and suicidal behaviors, as well as an implicit measure of suicidality. 

Results: Self-compassion was significantly associated with self-reported suicidal behaviors, even when controlling for self-criticism, hopelessness, and depression severity. Self-compassion was not significantly associated with implicit suicidality. 

Conclusions: The findings suggest that self-compassion is uniquely associated with self-reported suicidal behaviors, but not implicit suicidality, and that self-compassion is a potentially important target in suicide risk interventions. Limitations and future research directions are discussed.


Clinical implications

Our findings suggest that self-criticism and self-compassion are uniquely predictive of self-reported suicidal behaviors.  Therefore, in addition to the importance of targeting self-criticism, self-compassion may also be an important, and independent, target within suicide risk interventions. Indeed, qualitative analysis of interviews conducted with individuals with borderline personality disorder (a psychiatric disorder characterized by high levels of suicide risk) and their service providers, identified self-compassion as an important theme in the process of recovery.  Interventions that specifically focus on fostering self-compassion, by generating feelings of self-reassurance, warmth, and self-soothing, include compassion-focused therapy and mindful self-compassion. Compassion based interventions have shown promise for a wide range of populations, including eating disorders, psychotic disorders, personality disorders, and healthy individuals.