Social Comparison of Mental Health, Deliberate Self-injury and Help-Negation

Publication Name

International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction


Those engaging in deliberate self-injury (DSI) demonstrate low professional help-seeking rates. Help-negation in the context of deliberate self-injury refers to a relationship where higher levels of self-injury are associated with lower help-seeking intentions. This study aims to investigate whether social comparison processes and other variables contribute to help-negation. One hundred and eighty-three university students completed self-report questionnaires assessing DSI and help-seeking variables. Hierarchical multiple regression analysis was used to identify predictors of help-seeking intentions from mental health professionals for suicidal thoughts. A help-negation relationship was observed in that a greater DSI history was associated with reduced intentions to seek help. This effect remained after controlling for psychological distress and distress tolerance. Mental health comparison, specifically the tendency to rate one’s mental health as worse than others, significantly contributed to the prediction of help-seeking intentions. Lower prior help-seeking, higher frequency of DSI and the worse participants saw their mental health in comparison to others were all associated with lower help-seeking intentions for suicidal thoughts, consistent with help-negation. It is speculated that DSI may function as a strategy to protect against suicidality and lower intentions to seek help for suicidal ideation. Prospective longitudinal research is recommended to test this explanation and include a measure of the function of DSI.

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