Year: 2023 Source: Archives of Suicide Research. (2023). 27(2), 439-452. SIEC No: 20231256
Background Psychological distress, an umbrella term encompassing emotional anguish and cognitive-behavioral symptoms of anxiety and depression, is closely linked to suicidal ideation. However, the mechanism of this relationship is unclear, dampening the utility of distress screening in suicide prevention. Purpose This study aimed to identify potential mediators of this relationship, and whether effects are sex-specific. Method and participants A sample of online help-seekers who had just completed the K10 psychological distress checklist on the Beyond Blue website [Nā€‰=ā€‰1,528] consented to complete measures of help-seeking intentions, financial wellbeing, alcohol use, social connection (belongingness), sense of being a burden on others (burdensomeness); and suicidal ideation. Moderated mediation analysis examined the indirect effects of psychological distress on suicidal ideation through these risk factors, and whether effects were moderated by sex. Results The model accounted for 44% of the variance in suicidal ideation. The majority of participants had experienced very high psychological distress (77.3%) and at least some suicidal ideation (74.7%) in the past four weeks. A significant indirect effect of burdensomeness was found for both men and women. No other risk factors produced significant indirect effects. Conclusions Perceived burdensomeness appears to be central in determining how psychological distress might progress to suicidal thinking. The experience of distress may lead a person to believe that loved ones would be better off without them, prompting suicidal thinking.