Between suicidality and self : effects of mindfulness on college students' entrance into and progression along the continuum of suicidality

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2013-08

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Abstract

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students, making it a prime target for prevention initiatives on college campuses. Efforts to manage the problem of suicidality on campus frequently involve shepherding students at elevated risk into treatment services through the college counseling center. Several scholars have called for suicide prevention efforts to take a public health approach, seeking to intervene more broadly by improving the mental health of the general population that is currently at little to no risk of developing an imminent suicidal crisis. One manner of expanding these prevention efforts is to investigate those factors that preserve the emotional and mental resilience of college students facing similar life stressors and distress levels. As such, scholars of suicidality have called for closer examination of those protective factors that prevent some students--experiencing comparable levels of stress as compared to their suicidal peers--from ever entering into or progressing along the suicidality continuum. Mindfulness is a construct that has shown promise in the intervention literature for its ameliorative affect on a range of disorders and problematic coping behaviors. The possible protective benefit of dispositional levels of mindfulness at varying points along the suicidal continuum is not well understood, and the present study seeks to remedy this gap in the literature in a large sample of college students. Using archival data from a national survey of college student coping collected in 2011 by The National Research Consortium of Counseling Centers in Higher Education, this study explored the effect of trait mindfulness levels on entry into and progression along the continuum of suicidality. Multilevel modeling was used to explore associations between historical and demographic predictors of suicidality, dispositional mindfulness levels, self-reported distress levels during a recent stressful period, strength of intent during a recent suicidal crisis, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors along a continuum of suicidality. Results indicated that mindfulness conveys protection at the threshold of developing suicidal thoughts during a recent stressor, but is not associated with the shift from suicidal thoughts to the development of suicidal behaviors. Implications are discussed with respect to the role mindfulness can play in the development of comprehensive, population-based suicide prevention programming and mental health promotion initiatives on college campuses.

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