Perceived burdensomeness, fearlessness of death, and suicidality among deployed military personnel

Craig J. Bryan, Tracy A. Clemans, Ann Marie Hernandez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


The interpersonal-psychological theory of suicide posits that the interaction of three elements is required for lethal suicidal behaviors: the perception that one is a burden on others, the perception that one does not belong, and fearlessness about death combined with high pain tolerance (termed "acquired capability" for suicide). Although an ever expanding research base supports the theory, very limited data exist supporting the theory among military personnel, a group that has experienced a rapid increase in suicides during the past several years. The current study tests the interpersonal-psychological theory in two clinical samples of military personnel while deployed to Iraq: those seeking treatment for mild traumatic brain injury, and those seeking outpatient mental health treatment. In both samples, perceived burdensomeness and acquired capability were significantly associated with suicidality, as was their interaction term. Results partially support the interpersonal-psychological theory of suicide, and indicate that perceptions of burdensomeness combined with fearlessness about death are associated with increased suicidality among deployed military personnel.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)374-379
Number of pages6
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 2012


  • Acquired capability
  • Interpersonal-psychological theory
  • Military
  • Perceived burdensomeness
  • Suicide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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