Does mental well-being protect against self-harm thoughts and behaviors during adolescence? A six-month prospective investigation

Kirsten Russell, Susan Rasmussen*, Simon C. Hunter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
62 Downloads (Pure)


Mental well-being protects against the emergence of suicidal thoughts. However, it is not clear whether these findings extend to self-harm thoughts and behaviors irrespective of intent during adolescence—or why this relationship exists. The current study aimed to test predictions—informed by the integrated motivational–volitional (IMV) model of suicide—concerning the role of perceived defeat and entrapment within the link between mental well-being and self-harm risk. Young people (n = 573) from secondary schools across Scotland completed an anonymous self-report survey at two time points, six months apart, that assessed mental well-being, self-harm thoughts and behaviors, depressive symptomology and feelings of defeat and entrapment. Mental well-being was associated with reduced defeat and entrapment (internal and external) and a decrease in the likelihood that a young person would engage in self-harm thoughts and behaviors. The relationship between mental well-being and thoughts of self-harm was mediated by perceptions of defeat and entrapment (internal and external). Mental well-being was indirectly related to self-harm behaviors via decreased feelings of defeat and internal (but not external) entrapment. Taken together, these findings provide novel insights into the psychological processes linking mental well-being and self-harm risk and highlight the importance of incorporating the promotion of mental well-being within future prevention and early intervention efforts.
Original languageEnglish
Article number6771
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 17 Sep 2020


  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Health
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Motivation
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Scotland
  • Self-Injurious Behavior/prevention & control
  • Suicidal Ideation
  • Thinking


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