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.