Examining emotion relief motives as a facilitator of the transition from suicidal thought to first suicide attempt among active duty soldiers
Bryan, C.J., May, A.M., & Harris, J.
Cross-sectional and retrospective studies indicate that a primary motive for suicidal behavior among United States soldiers is the desire to alleviate or reduce emotional distress. This is also the aim of psychological services designed to prevent suicidal behavior. The prospective association of emotion relief (and other) motives with future suicidal behavior has yet to be examined, however. In a high-risk sample of 97 active duty soldiers presenting for an emergency behavioral health appointment, suicide motives were examined and compared between those with and without a history of suicide attempts. Results indicated that soldiers with a history of suicide attempts reported significantly more emotion relief (i.e., reducing or avoiding negative emotional states) and feeling generation (i.e., creating positive emotional states) motives. Feeling generation motives were positively correlated with severity of suicide ideation, hopelessness, depression, and posttraumatic stress, especially among those with a prior suicide attempt. Among soldiers with no previous suicide attempts, emotion relief motives were associated with significantly increased risk for suicide attempt during the 6-month follow-up assessment. Among soldiers with a prior attempt, emotion relief motives were not associated with later suicide attempts. Results provide preliminary evidence suggesting the desire to reduce or avoid negative emotional states may facilitate the emergence of a first suicide attempt among treatment-seeking Soldiers.