Mental wellbeing as a potential protective factor for suicidal and self-harming behaviours

Russell, Kirsten and Rasmussen, Susan and Hunter, Simon; (2016) Mental wellbeing as a potential protective factor for suicidal and self-harming behaviours. In: 16th European Symposium on Suicide and Suicidal Behaviour. UNSPECIFIED, ESP.

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Introduction: Suicidal and self-harming behaviours (SSHBs) represent significant public health concerns, particularly during adolescence. These behaviours are complex and multifaceted. As such, there is a pressing need to increase understanding regarding the development of these behaviours in adolescents in order to enhance prevention efforts. There is a body of research focusing on the risk factors associated with self-harming and suicidal behaviours. However, protective factors have received less attention within the literature. There is increasing interest in the concept of positive mental health (mental wellbeing) and its contribution to a range of life outcomes. However, to our knowledge, no research has examined the relationship between mental wellbeing and SSHBs. Goals:This investigation set out to examine the nature of the relationship between mental wellbeing and SSHBs, within an adolescent population, in order to determine if increased mental wellbeing could represent a potential protective factor for these behaviours. Methods:15 and 16 year old volunteers (n=1046) from Scottish secondary schools completed an anonymous questionnaire battery including questions measuring self-reported self-harm (with and without suicidal intent), mental wellbeing, and demographics (age, gender and race). Mental wellbeing was assessed using the short version of the Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWBS) which has been validated for adolescents. Results: In multivariate logistic regression, increased levels of mental wellbeing were associated with lower odds of suicidal (OR: 0.788, 95% CI 0.737-0.842, p<.001) and self-harming behaviour (OR: 0.810, 95% CI 0.775-0.847, p<.001). The effect of mental wellbeing remained significant when controlling for both age and gender. Conclusions:These preliminary findings provide novel insights into positive mental well-being as a potential protective factor for the development of suicidal and self-harming behaviours. Positive mental wellbeing can be improved and therefore could offer a potential modifiable clinical target for interventions seeking to tackle self-harm and suicide.