Hopelessness Predicts Risk for Suicide in Individuals with Psychosis

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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  • rhonda w

    rhonda w

    April 24th, 2012 at 11:34 AM

    Um, excuse me for stating the obvious but wouldn’t you say that hopelessness is a predictor for suicide in just about anyone, psychotic or not?

  • Sela


    April 24th, 2012 at 2:28 PM

    You would think that patients that have psychosis would be watched over so closely by caregivers that they would not have an opportunity to take their own lives. Guess that is further proof that if someone wants to commit suicide then no matter what, if that is the decision that they have made then they will find a way to do it.

  • Saul


    April 24th, 2012 at 3:52 PM

    We have all experienced those feelings of hopelessness in life, those feelings that no matter what more you try to do it is not going to change your life outcome.
    But it is that other existence of a mental disorder like psychosis which is more than likely going to tend to drive one more steadily toward the thought that the only way out for them is suicide.
    We all struggle with life and the events that are not particularly happy, but most of us know how to get ourselves out of that. Sadly those with a psychotic condition don’t have that ability to pull themselves out.

  • jason


    April 25th, 2012 at 12:15 AM

    cases of people committing suicide have always caught my attention.eveybody goes through some hopelessness at some point in their lives.but is their hopelessness just so much deeper?or is it that something like a cloud is formed in their mind and they just need to do ‘it’?

  • ronnie


    April 25th, 2012 at 4:24 AM

    There are a lot of things that need to be reevaluated when it comes to assessing suicide risk in numerous individuals.
    The most difficult challenge is to change the way that both providers and families see risk for suicide.
    We have to be willing to change how we have normally viewed this issue and be open to seeing that there can often be issues that we may not take into consideration that really should not be overlooked and ignored.

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