Cognitive change writing instructions versus exposure writing instructions used by undergraduates exhibiting suicidal thoughts and/or behaviors

Stacey House Kovac

Abstract

The study assessed the effects of writing about a depressed and/or suicidal time and whether cognitive change was a necessary outcome for the writing process. Dependent measures (suicidal thoughts and behaviors, depression, and physical health) were taken pre-, post- and at 6-week follow-up. Of the 2,109 undergraduates screened for past suicidal thoughts and/or behaviors, 121 individuals agreed to participate in a study involving writing on four days over two-weeks. The participants were randomly assigned to write (a) and reinterpret the events and emotions surrounding a suicidal and/or depressed time, (b) over and over again the events and emotions surrounding a suicidal and/or depressed time or (c) innocuous events. A total of 98 participants completed pre-, post-, and follow-up. No significant group differences occurred on the dependent measures at follow-up. The writing paradigm is not particularly effective for the psychological health of college students who report suicidal thoughts and/or behaviors.