Leader provided purpose: Military leadership behavior and its association with suicidal ideation

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Suicide in U.S. Army Soldiers is of major concern as it is estimated that over 100 Soldiers die by suicide each year. Examining risk and protective factors is essential to develop both an understanding of Soldier suicide as well as inform systemic interventions to reduce suicide. One potential systemic approach is to embed preventive mechanisms within the structure of the military rather than the typical administration of primary intervention through mandatory training. To examine potential mechanisms of leader-based interventions, several leadership behaviors were assessed in a cross-sectional sample of n = 1,096 active duty Soldiers. Soldiers completed self-report measures of interpersonal predictors of suicide, suicidal ideation (SI), leadership behaviors, and unit cohesion. Logistic regression was used to identify leadership behaviors related to SI. Only the leader behavior attempting to foster a sense of purpose predicted SI. Leader provided purpose (LPP) was then entered into indirect effect analyses to evaluate the mechanisms of this relationship. Analyses revealed that LPP predicted SI through unit cohesion, thwarted belongingness, and perceived burdensomeness. Results demonstrate that specific aspects of military leadership such as fostering Soldier purpose may enhance resilience and reduce risk for SI.

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Psychiatry research

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