Does self-esteem inflation mitigate mortality salience effects on suicide attitudes?

Athena Kheibari, Julie Cerel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Introduction: Suicide stigma is a major barrier to prevention and intervention efforts. Using terror management theory as the guiding framework, the present study examined whether enhancing self-esteem would buffer against suicide stigma and lead to prosocial attitudes and behavior. Methods: Experimental methods were utilized in the present study. After being primed with death-related thoughts, participants were randomly assigned to one of two conditions: (1) positive feedback (experimental group) and (2) no feedback (control group). The dependent variables included (1) evaluations of a suicide decedent, (2) intentions to intervene against suicide, and (3) charitable donation behavior toward a suicide prevention organization. Results: The most consistent findings for the self-esteem boost hypothesis were for the interaction effects of death anxiety and self-esteem boost for the donation allocation task and intentions to intervene against suicide. For participants who were reminded of death, the self-esteem boost intervention mitigated the negative impact of death anxiety on donation behavior (i.e., an average difference of $16.37). Positive feedback for participants with reported low self-esteem also led to increased willingness to intervene against suicide. Conclusion: These findings provide some promising potential for the self-esteem enhancement intervention to attenuate defensive reactions to suicide.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)775-784
Number of pages10
JournalSuicide and Life-Threatening Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The American Association of Suicidology


  • death anxiety
  • self-esteem
  • stigma
  • suicide attitudes
  • terror management theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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