The rates of nonsuicidal self-injuries (NSSI) are staggeringly high, especially among adolescents and young adults. Although it is theorized that most young people who engage in NSSI do so only for a short period, others continue to injure throughout adulthood. There has been an abundant amount of research showing that NSSI does not always lead to suicide. In fact, most individuals who engage in NSSI do not entertain thoughts of suicide, and only hurt themselves in an attempt to relieve stress or emotional pain. They rarely go on to take their own lives. However, a small portion of NSSI engagers do. To get a better idea of what factors related to NSSI put people at risk for suicide attempts, Chloe A Hamza of the Department of Psychology at Brock University in Canada recently led a study involving 439 self-reported NSSI young adults.
Hamza looked at several factors to determine if there were distinctions between those who did and did not eventually attempt suicide. She found three specific classes of NSSI individuals. The first group represented the majority of participants (68%) and was comprised of individuals who infrequently engaged in NSSI behaviors and had low levels of psychological impairment. The second and third groups injured themselves more frequently and more severely. But it was only the participants in the third group who reported suicidal attempts or ideations.
This group had the most frequent and most severe level of NSSI behavior and also had elevated levels of psychosocial impairment. More specifically, the individuals from the third group were more likely to report high levels of anxiety, depression, and stress than participants from group two or group one. Also, group three participants reported being alone most often when engaging in NSSI, while the other participants reported NSSI behaviors with others. They also reported current suicidal ideation versus ever having contemplated suicide. Overall, Hamza’s results show there are several factors that contribute to NSSI – suicidal behaviors that are not present in the majority of people who engage in NSSI alone. She added, “Our findings highlight the importance of assessing NSSI history, in combination with psychosocial impairment, to identify those individuals most at risk for suicidal behavior.”
Hamza CA, Willoughby T. (2013). Nonsuicidal self-injury and suicidal behavior: A latent class analysis among young adults. PLoS ONE 8(3): e59955. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0059955
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