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Friday, April 8, 2022

What predicts suicidality among psychologists? An examination of risk and resilience

S. Zuckerman, O. R. Lightsey Jr. & J. White
Death Studies (2022)
DOI: 10.1080/07481187.2022.2042753


Psychologists may have a uniquely high risk for suicide. We examined whether, among 172 psychologists, factors predicting suicide risk among the general population (e.g., gender and mental illness), occupational factors (e.g., burnout and secondary traumatic stress), and past trauma predicted suicidality. We also tested whether resilience and meaning in life were negatively related to suicidality and whether resilience buffered relationships between risk factors and suicidality. Family history of mental illness, number of traumas, and lifetime depression/anxiety predicted higher suicidality, whereas resilience predicted lower suicidality. At higher levels of resilience, the relationship between family history of suicide and suicidality was stronger.

From the Discussion section:

Contrary to hypotheses, however, resilience did not consistently buffer the relationship between vulnerability factors and suicidality. Indeed, resilience appeared to strengthen the relationships between having a family history of suicide and suicidality. It is plausible that psychologists may overestimate their resilience or believe that they “should” be resilient given their training or their helping role (paralleling burnout-related themes identified in the culture of medicine, “show no weakness” and “patients come first;” see Williams et al., 2020, p. 820). Similarly, persons who believe that they are generally resilient may be demoralized by their inability to prevent family history of suicide from negatively affecting them, and this demoralization may result in family history of suicide being a particularly strong predictor among these individuals. Alternatively, this result could stem from the BRS, which may not measure components of resilience that protect against suicidality, or it could be an artifact of small sample size and low power for detecting moderation (Frazier et al., 2004). Of course, interaction terms are symmetric, and the resilience x family history of suicide interaction can also be interpreted to mean that family history of suicide strengthens the relationship between resilience and suicidality: When there is a family history of suicide, resilience has a positive relationship with suicidality whereas, when there is no family history of suicide, resilience has a negative relationship with suicidality.