Comfort Expressing Emotions and Suicide Ideation: Evidence of Indirect Effects Via Perceived Burdensomeness and Thwarted Belongingness

Francesca Kassing, Cody G. Dodd, Lauren E. Palmer, Ryan M. Hill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Emotion regulation strategies and related constructs have been implicated both as risk and protective factors in a range of mental health outcomes among young adults. To expand upon this previous research, we examined comfort expressing four discrete emotions (i.e., love, happiness, sadness, and anger) as factors that protect against suicide ideation in young adults, within the context of the interpersonal theory of suicide. Method: The sample consisted of 449 college students (73.1% female, 70.6% Hispanic, Mage = 20.5 years) taking part in a larger study of mood and well-being. Students were recruited from a psychology participant pool and completed self-report measures at a single time point for course credit. Comfort expressing emotions and suicide ideation were assessed using the Measure of Verbally Expressed Emotion (MoVEE) and Adult Suicidal Ideation Questionnaire (ASIQ), respectively. Perceived burdensomeness and thwarted belongingness were assessed using the Interpersonal Needs Questionnaire (INQ). Results: Preliminary analyses revealed negative associations between comfort expressing all four emotions and suicide ideation (rs = −.13 to −.26). Results from structural equation modeling supported indirect effects from comfort expressing happiness and sadness to suicide ideation, via perceived burdensomeness and thwarted belongingness. An indirect effect was also identified from comfort expressing love to suicide ideation, via thwarted belongingness. Conclusions: Results suggest that comfort expressing emotions (particularly sadness and happiness) is a protective factor against suicide ideation for young adults. These findings suggest that suicide-prevention efforts may wish to focus on increasing comfort expressing emotions to trusted support networks as potential intervention targets.HIGHLIGHTS Comfort expressing emotions is negatively associated with suicide ideation. Comfort expressing emotions is associated with belongingness and burdensomeness. Comfort expressing emotions may be a potential target for suicide prevention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)886-895
Number of pages10
JournalArchives of Suicide Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2022


  • Belongingness
  • burdensomeness
  • emotional expression
  • interpersonal theory of suicide
  • suicide ideation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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