The role of suicidal mental imagery and experiential avoidance in
suicidality: An exploratory study
Objective: The purpose of this study was to explore the
influence of suicide-related mental imagery (SuiMI) and experiential
avoidance (EA) on suicidality. It was hypothesised that greater
frequency of SuiMI would be associated with greater EA. It was also
hypothesised that greater SuiMI would be associated with greater
suicidality, and that EA may mediate or moderate this relationship.
Method: Hypotheses were tested by surveying 197 university
students who completed self-report measures that assessed
suicide-related mental imagery, experiential avoidance, and suicidality.
Results: Frequency of SuiMI was positively correlated with
tendency to engage in EA. SuiMI was a significant predictor of both
suicidality and EA. Exploratory analysis found that spontaneous SuiMI
explained greater variance in suicidality than intrusive SuiMI, and that
SuiMI only predicted EA in low-risk participants and not for those at
high risk of suicide. EA did not predict suicidality and did not show a
mediating or moderating influence on the relationship between SuiMI and
suicidality. Conclusion: There is evidence to suggest that
suicide-related mental imagery may play an important role in suicide
risk. Future research should explore the processes involved in this
relationship and how these may differ according to type of SuiMI.