Hopelessness is a mental state that leaves a person feeling as if there is no positive outcome for their current situation. Negative factors such as economic plight, declining health, and marital difficulties can cause feelings of hopelessness in nonpsychotic individuals. Research has shown that in fact, hopelessness can predict suicide for nonpsychotic people who believe there is no way out of their current dilemma. However, until recently, few studies have sought to determine whether hopelessness is equally predictive of suicide in people who struggle with psychosis.
Some research has indicated that those with schizophrenia are more likely to commit suicide following an episode of severe hopelessness. Other studies have shown that the cognitive deficiencies that occur as a result of psychosis can actually buffer people with a history of suicide attempts from the risk of suicide due to hopelessness. E. David Klonsky of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, wanted to find out how hopelessness influenced the likelihood of suicide in people with varying degrees of psychosis, independent of previous suicide attempts.
Klonsky conducted a study that measured the levels of hopelessness of 414 individuals with psychosis over a period of 10 years. Of the 414 participants, one-third had tried to commit suicide before enrolling in the study, and less than one-fifth made at least one suicide attempt during the study period. The study revealed that hopelessness directly predicted suicide attempts in the individuals, but not immediately. The participants who had reported hopelessness over the first several years of the study period were more likely to attempt suicide between year four and year six, but not later. These findings demonstrate that current measures used to assess immediate suicide risk based on hopelessness and previous attempt history may need to be adjusted. Klonsky added, “Results suggest that hopelessness in individuals with psychotic disorders confers information about suicide risk above and beyond history of attempted suicide.”
Klonsky, E. D., Kotov, R., Bakst, S., Rabinowitz, J., Bromet, E. J. (2012). Hopelessness as a predictor of attempted suicide among first admission patients with psychosis: A 10-year cohort study. Suicide & Life Threatening Behavior,42.1, 1-10.
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