Perceived Burdensomeness, Thwarted Belongingness, and Fearlessness about Death: Associations With Suicidal Ideation among Female Veterans Exposed to Military Sexual Trauma.J Clin Psychol. 2017 Dec; 73(12):1655-1669.JC
Military sexual trauma (MST) is prevalent among female Veterans and is associated with increased risk for suicidal self-directed violence. Yet research examining processes which contribute to suicidal ideation and attempts among MST survivors has been sparse, focusing primarily on psychiatric symptoms or diagnoses, rather than employing a theory-driven approach. The interpersonal-psychological theory (Joiner, 2005) is a leading theory of suicide that may be particularly relevant for understanding suicidal ideation among female Veterans who have experienced MST. We examined whether constructs derived from the interpersonal-psychological theory of suicide (perceived burdensomeness, thwarted belongingness, and fearlessness about death; Joiner, 2005) were associated with suicidal ideation among female Veterans who had experienced MST, when adjusting for known risk factors for suicide.
Ninety-two female Veterans with a history of MST completed the Interpersonal Needs Questionnaire, Acquired Capability for Suicide Scale - Fearlessness about Death Scale, and Beck Scale for Suicide Ideation.
Perceived burdensomeness, thwarted belongingness, and fearlessness about death were each associated with suicidal ideation in the past week, adjusting for prior suicide attempts, current depressive symptoms, and current symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder. When including all three interpersonal-psychological constructs in the model, only perceived burdensomeness and fearlessness about death were significantly associated with suicidal ideation.
These findings provide knowledge regarding interpersonal processes that may contribute to suicidal ideation among this high-risk, yet understudied, population. These results also underscore the importance of assessing for interpersonal-psychological constructs-particularly perceived burdensomeness and fearlessness about death-when working with female Veterans who have experienced MST.