The relationships among stress, self-esteem, and suicidal ideation in late adolescents were examined in a group of college students. Multiple regression analysis indicated that both stress and self-esteem were significantly related to suicidal ideation; low self-esteem and stressful life events significantly predicted suicidal ideation. The hypothesis that self-esteem would moderate the effects of life stressors on suicidal ideation was supported at the .06 level. A significant minority of the sample indicated having thoughts severe enough to be classified as clinical suicidal ideation. In general, participants who had experienced negative life events in the 6 to 12 months prior to participating in the study had lower self-esteem than those who had similar stresses within the prior six months. However, the opposite was true for clinical suicidal ideators; those who experienced negative life stressors recently had lower self-esteem than those who experienced negative life events six months to a year in the past. Adolescent suicide is a worldwide problem, but it is of particular concern in highly industrialized nations such as the United States (Conner, Duberstein, Conwell, Seidlitz, & Caine, 2001); Kurtz & Derevensky, 1993). The suicide rate in the United States has tripled since 1960, making it the third leading cause of death among adolescents and the second leading cause of death among the college-age population (National Mental Health Association, 1997). Although it is estimated that approximately 14 adolescents in the United States commit suicide each day, the actual number is two to three times higher (American Psychiatric Association, 1996; 1998). Understandably, these alarming statistics have stimulated great concern in the public at large and have led social scientists to warn of an impending rise in the number of suicides and suicidal attempts among adolescents (Berman & Jobes, 1994; Griffiths, Parley, & Fraser, 1986; Watt & Sharp, 2002). Much of the research literature appears to be focused on suicide per se. However, professionals are increasingly paying attention to the antecedent behaviors. According to Bush and Pargament (1995), suicidal behavior is often preceded by thoughts, threats, and unsuccessful attempts at suicide. Similarly, Cole, Protinsky, and Cross (1992) noted that suicide was the completed process of a continuum that began with suicidal ideation, followed by an attempt at suicide, and finally completed suicide. Suicidal ideation is a preoccupation with intrusive thoughts of ending one's own life (Cole, Protinsky, & Cross, 1992; Harter, Marold, & Whitesell, 1992) while suicide is the completed act of taking ones life (National Mental Health Association, 2002). Because of this progression from thought to action, it is fitting that researchers explore the notion of suicidal ideation in greater depth. The current study examined the phenomenological relationship among stress, self-esteem, and suicidal ideation in adolescents. Much of the research to date has focused on the associations of stress and self-esteem to actual suicide but not to ideation. Moreover, the majority of studies have examined the relationships in clinical populations. Thus, we know little about the associations of these processes in nonclinical populations. The present study investigated the relationship among cumulative negative life experiences (stress), self-esteem, and suicidal ideation in a nonclinical population of college students. Selye (1974) defined stress as a response of the human body to any stimulus that disrupts the individual's homeostasis. Because these responses are unavoidable, individuals are faced with the constant urge to maintain internal balance. Accordingly, any experience that affects one's homeostasis is considered to be stress (Rice, 1992). Social scientists have expanded Hans Selye's notion of physiological stress to include...
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