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Utah's Foremost Platform for Undergraduate Research Presentation
2022 Abstracts

Suicidal Behavior in Southern Utah: Risk and Protective Factors for College Students

Presenters: Stephen Gubler
Authors: Stephen Gubler, Jamie Cormani-Denney
Faculty Advisor: Muhammed Yildiz
Institution: Dixie State University

Suicide is the leading cause of death for youth and young adults in Utah. Understanding the risk and protective factors for youth suicidal behaviors provides the basis for suicide prevention strategies as these behaviors are the strongest predictors of a subsequent completed suicide. While previous literature has identified some of these factors, none have done so considering the social context of Utah. Using data from the 2021 National College Health Assessment III Survey (NCHA III), this study investigates the various individual, psychological, and social/environmental risk and protective factors associated with suicidal behaviors among Dixie State University (DSU) students (N = 347, Mean age = 22.2, Female = 72.6%). The survey uses Suicidal Behaviors Questionnaire-Revised (SBQ-R) to measure suicidal behaviors (i.e., ideation, plan, and attempt). Results showed a high prevalence of suicidal behaviors among DSU students. Some 28% of participants reported having thought about suicide, 21.9% have had a plan, 8.3% have attempted suicide during their lifetime, and 4.3% have attempted suicide in the last 12 months. Overall, 33.4% of the sample had a suicidality score that exceeded the critical threshold for positive suicidal screening. Bivariate analyses showed that psychological distress, loneliness, substance use (tobacco, alcohol, and cannabis), self-reported stress, exposure to negative life events and abuse, having a child, having received mental health services, having a disability, and being a sexual minority were significantly associated with a higher risk of suicidality. On the other hand, psychological well-being, resilience, academic and social participation, and religiosity were significantly associated with a lower risk of suicidality. These findings provide insights for college mental health care providers to plan interventions of youth at risk of suicide to prevent completion. In addition to targeting youth at increased risk, preventive efforts should include the promotion of protective factors in the lives of college students.