Protective Factors in Suicide Prevention- Why It’s Important to Understand the Good Stuff

Presented by: David Rettew, MD

This presentation will take a positive psychiatry perspective on suicide prevention and describe how qualities such as connectedness, optimism, and self-efficacy can help reduce suicidality.

Presentation Summary:

A great deal of suicide prevention work is appropriately focused on identifying and addressing risk factors such as depression and trauma. While these efforts are certainly worthwhile, it is important to remember that the absence of negative factors in someone’s life does not necessarily imply the presence of positive elements that research has demonstrated can protect people from suicidal thoughts and actions. This presentation will describe some of these positive qualities such as connectedness, optimism, and self-efficacy, and show how they are involved in the development of resilience. Data will be shown from the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey that examines the relations between suicidality and variables related to these domains. Findings from other studies will be shown briefly and the emerging field of positive psychiatry will be discussed. After the evidence for this perspective is outlined, strategies for how to cultivate these qualities will be described that can help parents, mental health professionals, and loved ones create an environment that is more resistant to suicidal thoughts and actions from taking hold in the first place and provide additional intervention possibilities for those already struggling with suicidality.

Presentation Objectives:

As a result of attending this presentation, attendees will: 

  • Describe positive qualities that protect individuals from suicidal thoughts and behaviors. 
  • Provide evidence that establishes the important roles these factors play in suicide prevention. 
  • Outline practical steps that can be taken to bring and nurture these positive factors into someone’s life.