PTSD Symptoms and Suicidality in University Students: The Role of Distress Tolerance
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Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a strong predictor of suicide attempts and has been shown to independently predict suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. Distress tolerance (DT), which refers to the capacity to tolerate negative emotional and/or physical states, is a cognitive-affective factor with clinical relevance to PTSD and suicidality. No studies to date have examined the associations of PTSD symptoms, DT, and suicidal ideation or suicide risk among undergraduate students, a population at risk for suicidal ideation and behavior. It was hypothesized that greater PTSD symptom severity and lower perceived DT, respectively, would be associated with greater suicidal ideation and suicide risk (i.e., suicidality); and that PTSD symptom severity would exert an indirect effect on suicidality through perceived DT. Covariates included trauma load, negative affectivity, and gender. Participants were comprised of 819 trauma-exposed university students (78.0% female; Mage= 22.0) who consented to and completed self-report survey questionnaires. Results indicated that greater PTSD symptom severity and lower DT, respectively, were significantly associated with greater suicidal ideation and suicide risk. Further, PTSD symptom severity exerted an indirect effect on suicidal ideation and suicide risk through perceived DT. Effects were documented after controlling for theoretically relevant covariates. Clinical and research implications are discussed.