Suicide Risk among BDSM Practitioners

A quantitative research study was conducted in the United States to analyze rates of suicide ideation among BDSM Practitioners. This study hypothesized that due to the increased pain tolerance and a lessened fear of death among practitioners, more suicide attempts would be present among those who have more frequent engagements in BDSM activities in a lifetime. The second hypothesis made was “As a person identifies closer to one extreme or the other (masochist or submissive) the higher the likelihood of previous suicide attempt, higher the pain tolerance, and the lower the fear of death” (Brown, 2017). The researchers also considered gender differences on the capability of suicide per suggestions from previous research findings.

The participants in this study were recruited via online BDSM forums and groups on social networking sites. An online survey link was administered which led the participant to fill out a consent form, a demographic survey, then assessments on BDSM activities, mental health, suicide risk, and sexuality (Brown, 2017).  The study included questions from the Acquired Capability for Suicide Scale-Fearlessness About Death (ACSS-FAD) and a self-report item that assessed perceived pain tolerance. Only participants who reported involvement in BDSM activities were included in the study. Five hundred seventy-six people took part in this survey; 384 males, 173 females, and 19 others. Of these participants, 92.6% identified as Non-Hispanic, and 90.1% identified as white (Brown, 2017). 

The researchers of this study made a few noteworthy findings. First, they found that there may be a higher risk of suicide among BDSM practitioners than the general population. In this sample, 8% of males and 19% of females reported attempting suicide in the past. Secondly, results support the idea that a simultaneous decrease in fear of death and an increase in pain tolerance equals an increased ability to participate in suicidal activities. Third, the more exposure a person has to BDSM activities, the greater the odds of a history of suicide attempts. Fourth, an increase in perceived pain tolerance is related to indirect exposure to the painful parts of BDSM practices. Fifth, the closer a person is to the sadist or dominant identification, the higher their odds of past suicide attempts. However, for female BDSM practitioners, there was no significant connection between perceived pain tolerance, fearlessness about death, suicide attempts, and BDSM identification (Brown, 2017). 

This study noted a few limitations namely, being sample-specific due to the recruitment method, one self-reported item was used to assess suicide status, and the data are cross-sectional. The researchers call for further research to examine how control plays a role in the relation of suicide in BDSM practitioners. There are other elements in BDSM culture and individual factors, such as abuse history, that may also play a role in the risk of suicide which should be studied. More gender differences among practitioners need to be examined as well (Brown, 2017). 

This study found that even though females have more reported suicide attempts, there is a  higher correlation between suicide and BDSM practices for male practitioners. Clinicians need to be more attentive to male BDSM participants when they show or report suicidal ideation (Brown, 2017). There is an increased capability of suicide among male BDSM practitioners and the necessary precautions need to be taken to ensure the client is not at risk of harming himself. Clinicians can provide the following resources to the client. The BC Crisis Centre hotline number is 1-800-724-2433. A directory for kink-aware professionals in Vancouver can be found here: https://fetvancouver.com/vancouver-fetish-directory/vancouver-kink-aware-professionals/


References

Brown, S. L., Roush, J. F., Mitchell, S. M., & Cukrowicz, K. C. (2017). Suicide Risk Among BDSM Practitioners: The Role of Acquired Capability for Suicide. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 73(12), 1642–1654. https://doi-org.ezproxy.adler.edu/10.1002/jclp.22461

Fetmiss. (2018, September 11). Vancouver Kink Aware Professionals. Retrieved from https://fetvancouver.com/vancouver-fetish-directory/vancouver-kink-aware-professionals/