Self-oriented perfectionism and socially prescribed perfectionism add incrementally to the prediction of suicide ideation beyond hopelessness: A meta-analysis of 15 studies

In 1954, Ernest Hemingway achieved his lifelong dream—the Nobel Prize for English literature. However, this prestigious award brought him little satisfaction. Seven years later, Hemingway attempted suicide and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. But Hemingway’s psychiatric admission did little to assuage his suicidal thinking. On the contrary, Hemingway believed the electroshock therapy he received during his hospitalization had robbed him of his ability to write and as such the “centre of his being”. In his own words, in response to a friend trying to convince him that he still had much to live for, Hemingway said, “What does a mancare for? Staying healthy. Working good. Eating and drinking with friends… I haven’t any of them. Do you understand god damn it? None of them” (Rubinstein, 1988, p. 508). And on July 2nd, 1961, two days after being discharged, Hemingway woke up early, put on his red robe, and looked for the key to his hunting cabinet; his fourth wife, Mary Welsh, had hidden the key knowing his suicidal intent. Unfortunately, Hemingway found the key, unlocked his gun cabinet, loaded his favourite shotgun, placed the butt of the gun on the floor, put the cold steel inside his mouth, and then pulled the trigger.
What was it about this remarkably talented and accomplished man that caused his untimely suicide? Was it Hemingway’s pervading sense of hopelessness?
Hopelessness and suicide go hand in hand (Minkoff, Bergman, Beck, & Beck, 1973)—people beset by suicidal thoughts rarely, if ever, see their future as brimming with hope. In fact, Hemingway once mused that his life was “like being in a Kafka nightmare. I’m bone tired and very beat up emotionally” (Trogdon, 2006, p. 273). Alternatively, over 20 years of research implicates perfectionism in suicide (Blatt, 1995; Flett, Hewitt, & Heisel, 2014; O’Connor, 2007). Might Hemingway’s rigid need to meet his own and other’s perfectionistic standards have contributed to his suicide? We aimed to answer such questions by meta-analysing research on perfectionism, hopelessness, and suicide ideation and testing if self-oriented perfectionism, other-oriented perfectionism, and socially prescribed perfectionism predict suicide ideation beyond hopelessness.