Perfectionism: A Suicide Predictor

Course excerpt from Suicide Prevention: Evidence-Based Strategies

PerfectionismOne of the intriguing risk factors for suicide from recent research is perfectionism. In a literature review, Flett, Hewitt, and Heisel (2014) report consistent evidence linking suicide ideation with long-term exposure to a source of external pressure to be perfect. Perfectionism has been shown to predict suicide above the predictor of hopelessness. Perfectionism coupled with self-concealment (not allowing others to see one’s faults) is a risk for suicide without warning. The authors also note the risk for perfectionists for life stress, hopelessness, and overgeneralization.

The risk for perfectionists is that the person’s emotional perfectionism does not allow for disclosure of suicidal thoughts. Flett and colleagues warn behavioral health professionals to “beware the mask” of people who hide their distress until they kill themselves. Self-concealment and silencing the self – not allowing oneself to admit to distress – are perfectionistic traits which can lead inexorably to suicide. This suicide risk is high because the person will avoid seeking any kind of help, whether the help is from family, friends, or professionals.

The pressure to be perfect may come from a parent, an employer, spouse, or other significant person. This might include a hypercritical parent, a workplace that does not tolerate any mistakes, or a romantic partner who seemingly cannot be pleased. Flett and colleagues list the dimensions of perfectionism from research: high personal standards, doubts about one’s actions, high expectations of parents, and high criticism from parents. The perfectionist has a feeling of continually falling short of their own and others’ standards. This leads to other key risk factors for suicide: the perception of being a burden and thwarted needs for belonging.

A study found a significant suicide potential in children and adolescents with perfectionist traits. The study found evidence validating the perfectionism social disconnection model. This model states that interpersonal perfectionism creates a sense of isolation and alienation that increases suicide risk (Roxborough et al., 2012). The researchers found the link between suicide potential and the need to seem perfect to others was accompanied by a history of high interpersonal hopelessness and being bullied.

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Suicide Prevention: Evidence-Based StrategiesSuicide Prevention: Evidence-Based Strategies is a 3-hour online continuing education (CE) course that reviews evidence-based research and offers strategies for screening, assessment, treatment, and prevention of suicide in both adolescents and adults. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. In 2015, 44,193 people killed themselves. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes, “Suicide is a serious but preventable public health problem that can have lasting harmful effects on individuals, families, and communities.” People who attempt suicide but do not die face potentially serious injury or disability, depending on the method used in the attempt. Depression and other mental health issues follow the suicide attempt. Family, friends, and coworkers are negatively affected by suicide. Shock, anger, guilt, and depression arise in the wake of this violent event. Even the community as a whole is affected by the loss of a productive member of society, lost wages not spent at local businesses, and medical costs. The CDC estimates that suicides result in over 44 billion dollars in work loss and medical costs. Prevention is key: reducing risk factors and promoting resilience. This course will provide a review of evidence-based studies on this complex subject for psychologists, marriage & family therapists, professional counselors, and social workers. Information from the suicide prevention technical package from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be provided. Included also are strategies for screening and assessment, prevention considerations, methods of treatment, and resources for choosing evidence-based suicide prevention programs. Course #30-97 | 2017 | 60 pages | 20 posttest questions

This online course provides instant access to the course materials (PDF download) and CE test. After enrolling, click on My Account and scroll down to My Active Courses. From here you’ll see links to download/print the course materials and take the CE test (you can print the test to mark your answers on it while reading the course document). Successful completion of the online CE test (80% required to pass, 3 chances to take) and course evaluation are required to earn a certificate of completion. Click here to learn more.

About the Author:

Laura More, MSW, LCSW, is a healthcare author and licensed clinical social worker. Laura was one of the founding partners of Care2Learn, a provider of online continuing education courses for the post-acute healthcare industry. She now provides healthcare authoring services. She has authored over 120 online continuing education titles, co-authored evidence-based care assessment area resources and a book, The Licensed Practical Nurse in Long-term Care Field Guide. She is the recipient of the 2010 Education Award from the American College of Health Care Administrators.

CE Information:

Professional Development Resources is approved to sponsor continuing education by the American Psychological Association (APA); the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC ACEP #5590); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB Provider #1046, ACE Program); the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy (#BAP346), Psychology & School Psychology (#50-1635); the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board (#RCST100501); the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs (#193); and the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists (#114) and State Board of Social Worker Examiners (#5678).