In what ways do students grow after trauma? Students’ self-reported domains of growth and the relationship between suicidality and growth



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Stakeholders in college student mental health have called for a shift in focus from disease to wellness. In response, researchers have increasingly explored factors that foster and maintain mental health among this population (National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, 2009). One such germane factor is posttraumatic growth (PTG). Researchers in this domain posit that individuals can endure a subjectively traumatic experience, cope successfully with the effects of that trauma, and thereby function better than before the trauma. Researchers have acknowledged the sociocultural relativism of existing measures of PTG, suggesting differential growth potential among diverse populations and unidentified domains may exist. While a burgeoning area of research, existing knowledge of PTG indicates that college life may be characterized by optimized potential for growth (Meyerson, Grant, Carter, & Kilmer, 2011). Moreover, researchers have suggested PTG may relate positively to outcomes including perceived comprehensibility, manageability, and meaningfulness of life; accessing social support and helpers; and appreciation for life (Tedeschi & Calhoun, 1995). Suicidality (i.e., morbid rumination, active suicidal thoughts, suicidal plans, and behaviors) at varying levels of severity may impact growth potential among the college student population. Suicide is considered the third leading cause of death among individuals 24 years and younger, and it is the second leading cause of death among college students (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2009; Suicide Prevention Resource Center, 2004). Further, Drum, Brownson, Burton Denmark, and Smith (2009) asserted a greater prevalence of suicidal ideation among college students than once believed. Data suggest that over half of students experience some level of suicidal ideation in their lifetime. The proposed study aims to address persistent gaps in the literature through qualitative and quantitative analysis of cross-sectional data collected in 2011 by the National Research Consortium of Counseling Centers in Higher Education. Data were collected from college students across 74 national institutions. The prevalence of perceived PTG will be determined, and domains of PTG will be identified. The relationship among demographic variables, suicidality, and PTG will be tested to ascertain each independent variable’s effect on the likelihood of endorsing overall PTG as well as PTG in each domain.