Can writing autobiographical essays lessen suicidal thinking?
To assess if autobiographical writing would lessen suicidal thinking, improve mood, or reduce health center visits, 49 undergraduates were randomly assigned to write about profound topics (e.g., highly stressful, traumatic, or guilty experiences) or trivial topics (e.g., objectively describing their bedroom or dorm room) for 15 minutes per day on 4 days during a 2-week period. Both groups completed pre-test, post-test, and 6-week follow-up measures of suicidal thinking and mood, and self-reported health-center visits at pre-test and follow-up. No significant differences were found between groups on suicidality or mood. However, the profound group reported a reduction in the number of health center visits from pre-test to follow-up that approached statistical significance (p = .06). Consistent with past research, writing about profound topics appeared to benefit physical health; however, the benefits did not extend to mental health, at least in terms of mood or suicidal thinking.
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