Article in review: Cramer, R.J., and Tucker, R. (2021). Improving the Field’s Understanding of Suicide Protective Factors and the Translational Suicide Prevention Activities. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18031027
A recent volume of the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health has focused on the most contemporary research that has been published about suicide resilience. It features studies in adult and adolescent groups, each providing more insight into this under-researched area.
Risk factors vs. resilience factors
With suicide rates in many countries remaining stable or increasing annually, there are continued efforts from around the globe to understand what factors contribute to suicide risk. Yet, a consensus has not been reached in identifying factors that put a person at risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviours. Most risk factors studied prove to be “little better than chance” at predicting future suicidal thoughts and behaviours. While risk factors have been studied rather extensively, suicide resilience factors have been considered far less.
The studies in this publication help us to consider what work might be done “upstream” or at points before a person even shows signs of being at risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviours. A broader and more holistic understanding of what constitutes mental wellbeing, and what it means to have good mental health is required. An opportunity to be explored here is the benefit of positive future thinking and the need to identify considerations into approaches and supports for at-risk individuals.
The edition also features the article Suicide safety planning, clinician training, comfort, and safety plan utilization, summarised by Suicide Risk Assessment previously here. There is also a publication related to the opportunity for Artificial Intelligence (AI) to play a role in suicide risk assessment through language analysis. These, too, are tools we have also considered before.
The common factors of grit, hope, and optimism differentially influence suicide resilience
A study in the journal by Clement and colleagues (2020) involved a group of college students and focused on the interrelationship between hope and optimism, hopelessness and grit, as well as research on suicide ideation among the study group. They found that risk factors (hopelessness and suicide ideation) and resilience factors (hope, optimism, and grit) can relate at both the subscale and item level. However, they also found that they did not represent the original five scales when they analysed the five risk and resilience factors together. This research suggests that we need to better understand resilience factors and how they work together to enable us to have a clearer picture of future positive thinking and approaches.
Does mental wellbeing protect against self-harm thoughts and behaviours during adolescence? A six-month prospective investigation
Russell and associates (2020) also considered future positive thinking in their longitudinal study of adolescents. Their application of the Integrated Motivational Volition model of suicide provides a useful framework for understanding how earlier interventions that foster mental wellbeing may impact suicide risk. The authors found that mental wellbeing does appear protective against suicide risk by reducing noted feelings of defeat and entrapment.
Preferences in information processes, marginalized identity, and non-monogamy: Understanding factors in suicide-related behaviours among members of the alternative sexuality community
Both emotional and personal suicide protection factors were identified by Cramer, and colleagues (2020), in their study of adult members of communities of alternative sexualities. They found that higher education and the involvement of a person in a monogamous relationship were protective factors. But beyond these, they also found that a high need-for-affect approach or a willingness to engage emotions “buffered the negative association between depression and suicide.”
These articles demonstrate the benefit and value of research around suicide resistance factors. Although much less research has been conducted around suicide resilience factors versus suicide risk factors, these publications can guide furthering our understanding of positive attributes and actions that can mitigate suicide risk.
Clement, D.N., Wingate, L.R., Cole, A.B.. O’Keefe, V.M., Hollingsworth, D.W., Davidson, C.L., Hirsch, J.K., (2020). The common factors of grit, hope, and optimism differentially influence suicide resilience. International Journal of Environmental Research & Public Health, DOI:
Cramer, R.J., Langhinrichsen-Rohling, J., Kaniuka, A.R., Wilsey, C.N., Mennicke, A., Wright, S., …& Heron, K.E. (2020) Preferences in information processing, marginalized identity, and non-monogamy: Understanding factors in suicide-related behavior among members of the alternative sexuality community, International Journal of Environmental Research & Public Health, DOI:
Russell, K., Rasmussen, S. & Hunter, S.C. (2020). Does mental well-being protect against self-harm thoughts and behaviors during adolescence? A six-month prospective investigation. International Journal of Environmental Research & Public Health, DOI: