Abstract: Maladaptive Copings Behaviors, Self-Compassion, and Suicide Ideation in Black College Students (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

Maladaptive Copings Behaviors, Self-Compassion, and Suicide Ideation in Black College Students

Saturday, January 19, 2019: 4:00 PM
Union Square 25 Tower 3, 4th Floor (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Janelle Goodwill, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Daphne Watkins, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, An arobr, MI
BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for college students broadly and the third-leading cause of death for Black youth and young adults ages 15-24 (CDC, 2015). When considering the unique challenges experienced by Black college students (e.g. financial difficulties, academic concerns, racist encounters, etc.), it is important to examine how Black collegians cope with stress to prevent the onset of adverse mental health outcomes, like suicide ideation. However, reports that focus on suicidal behaviors among Black college students remain scant. Previous research has identified self-compassion as a potential buffer against suicide ideation for college students (Chang et al., 2017), though these relations have yet to be examined specifically among Black college students. The current study aims to (1) uncover which maladaptive coping behaviors are associated with suicide ideation; and (2) determine whether self-compassion mediates the relationship between maladaptive coping behaviors and suicide ideation among a nationally-representative sample of Black college students.

METHODS: Data were collected from 713 Black college students who participated in the Healthy Minds Study— a nationally-representative survey administered annually to currently enrolled college students in the U.S. A random sample of students was selected from each partnering institution and the students were invited via email to complete the online survey. Compensation was offered to those who completed the survey in the form of a gift card raffle.

Maladaptive coping behaviors were measured using 6 subscales from the Brief COPE Inventory: denial, self-distraction, disengagement, venting, substance use, and self-blame (Carver, 1997). Self-compassion was measured using the Self-Compassion Scale—Short Form (Raes, Pommier, Neff, & Van Gucht, 2011). Suicide ideation was captured using a single item that asked participants to indicate whether they had ever seriously considered ending their life in the past 12 months (yes/no).

First, logistic regression tests were performed to uncover which of the 6 maladaptive coping behaviors were associated with suicide ideation. Next, a mediation analysis was used to examine whether self-compassion mediated the relationship between maladaptive coping behaviors and suicide ideation. Significance of an indirect (or mediated) effect was tested using bootstrapping methods for 1,000 resamples by providing empirically derived confidence intervals (Preacher & Hayes, 2004). All analyses were performed using Mplus version 8 (Muthen & Muthen, 2015).

RESULTS: Logistic regression results revealed that self-blame (OR=2.27, CI=1.54-3.36) was the only maladaptive coping subscale that was significantly associated with suicide ideation. Additional tests revealed that self-compassion mediated the relationship between self-blame and suicide ideation, as the standardized effect size for the indirect effect was observed as (ab= 0.26, CI=0.12-.39). These findings suggest that suicide ideation increases by 0.26 units for every one unit increase in feelings of self-blame via self-compassion.

CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: Self-blame appears to be a harmful coping behavior that is positively associated with suicide ideation. Both clinical practice and suicide prevention interventions should be intentional in their efforts to equip Black college students with strategies for combating feelings of self-blame, while also encouraging Black college students to adopt practices that foster self-compassion.