Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Spirituality/religiosity, Life Satisfaction, and Life Meaning as Protective Factors for Nonsuicidal Self-Injury in College Students

Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Spirituality/religiosity, Life Satisfaction, and Life Meaning as Protective Factors for Nonsuicidal Self-Injury in College Students

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to identify factors that may protect or insulate people from engaging in nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI). College students (N = 14,385) from 8 universities participated in a web-based survey. Results of bivariate correlations and multiple regression revealed that spirituality/religiosity, life satisfaction, and life meaning were predictive of NSSI. The authors provide practice suggestions for college counselors and other professionals charged with helping those at risk for NSSI.

Keywords: nonsuicidal self-injury, spirituality, life satisfaction

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Nonsuicidal self-injury (hereinafter referred to as NSSI or self-injury) is the deliberate act of physically damaging one's own body tissue without suicidal intent, usually by cutting, burning, or hitting oneself (International Society for the Study of Self-Injury, 2007). The most common method of NSSI is cutting, although most individuals tend to report engaging in at least two different forms of NSSI (Klonsky, 2011). It is estimated that 6% of adults, 15% of college students, and 21% of adolescents have engaged in NSSI at least once during their lifetime (Whitlock, Eckenrode, & Silverman, 2006; Whitlock et al., 2011), with the first episode of NSSI usually occurring during adolescence (Whitlock et al., 2006).

Self-injury may lead to multiple complications and risks, with the behavior sometimes becoming more severe over time and possibly resulting in unintentional harm that requires medical attention (Hankin & Abela, 2011; Whitlock et al., 2006). People who self-injure may also be at an increased risk for suicide attempts (Whitlock & Knox, 2007; Whitlock et al., 2012). Anxiety, depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, and borderline personality disorder often co-occur with NSSI (Goldstein, Flett, Wekerle, & Wall, 2009; Gollust, Eisenberg, 8c Golberstein, 2008; MacLaren 8c Best, 2010; Whitlock et al., 2006). A history of childhood neglect, emotional abuse, or sexual abuse is also common among those who self-injure (Glassman, Weierich, Hooley, Deliberto, 8c Nock, 2007; Whitlock et al., 2006).

The ostensible increasing prevalence of individuals who self-injure combined with the potential for serious physical harm and suicide (Whitlock 8c Knox, 2007) suggests that an understanding of factors that mitigate the risk of self-injury is important to college counselors who regularly engage in prevention and intervention efforts. Spirituality and religiosity are two constructs that have received attention in the literature as being potentially protective in buffering people from various mental health problems (Fallot, 2001). Spirituality is a general belief of an experience beyond human awareness or a belief in a specific higher power, whereas religiosity refers to formal belief systems and participation in religious institutions (Fallot, 2001). The constructs of spirituality and religiosity are difficult to differentiate (Fallot, 2001). Contributing to the difficulties in distinguishing religiosity from spirituality is the fact that spiritual beliefs are often shared by a group, whereas religion, by definition, includes a belief and a relationship with a higher power. Further overlapping the two constructs, spirituality and religiosity both include beliefs about the meaning and purpose of life (Fallot, 2001). In this study, because we are interested in the shared constructs of life meaning and life purpose, we use the terms spirituality and religiosity together. If there is a reference made to religion or spirituality per se in the literature review, the constructs studied in the said investigations were specifically referenced.

Spirituality/religiosity can provide individuals with an adaptive means of understanding and experiencing life, as well as facilitating their ability to make meaningful connections with life experiences (Fallot, 2001). Research on the benefits that spirituality/religiosity provides in insulating people against mental health problems (e. …

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