Among the most investigated theories explaining suicidal behavior there are the interpersonal-psychological theory of suicide (IPTS) by Thomas E. Joiner and the one focused on the construct of psychological pain (or psychache, or mental pain).
Since it remains unclear whether these two different theories correlate with each other in the explanation of suicidal risk, we used a network analysis approach to investigate the complex interplay between both IPTS and psychological pain theories and history of suicidal planning and/or suicide attempt (SP/SA).
A sample of 1,586 university students from various Italian universities was recruited between April 24th, 2020 and February 23rd, 2021, hence during the COVID-19 pandemic. To be included subjects should have been university students and aged between 18 and 35 years old.
Within a network that included the core factors from both models (IPTS and psychological pain), higher fearlessness about death (Acquired Capability for Suicide Scale-Fearlessness About Death, ACSS-FAD) and higher psychological pain (Psychache Scale) were the variables most strongly associated with history of SP/SA.
Considering a large number of variables, history of SP/SA was explained in particular by fearlessness about death and psychological pain in university students. Hence these aspects should be targeted in the treatment for suicide prevention.