Behind impulsive suicide attempts: Indications from a community study

Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention, World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Suicide Prevention, Griffith University, Brisbane, Queensland 4111, Australia.
Journal of Affective Disorders (Impact Factor: 3.38). 12/2007; 104(1-3):167-73. DOI: 10.1016/j.jad.2007.02.015
Source: PubMed


A considerable proportion of suicide attempts are made on impulse. However, knowledge of characteristics of impulsive attempters is still limited. The present study investigated some of these characteristics and aimed to identify the pattern (if any) of suicidal ideation before an impulsive attempt.
Data from a randomized and stratified population of 5130 individuals from Brisbane, Australia, were analysed. Computer-assisted telephone interviews (CATI) were adopted to recruit subjects. Those reporting previous suicidal behaviour were sent a questionnaire by mail.
One hundred and twelve subjects reported a suicide attempt. One quarter of these described a pattern consistent with an impulsive attempt. Most impulsive attempters experienced suicidal thoughts before their attempt. They were less likely to believe that their attempt would cause death, and less likely to experience depression. Impulsive attempters did not differ significantly from non-impulsive attempters in regards to age, gender, and motivations for the attempt. Surprisingly, no differences in mean scores of trait impulsivity between impulsive and non-impulsive attempters were found. In addition, the majority of suicide attempters (whether impulsive or not) experienced the suicidal process as fluctuating and not as developing along a continuum.
The number of attempters who validly entered the study limited our ability to identify potential confounders. Due to the retrospective nature of the survey, the reliability of the information collected may have been affected by recall biases. In addition, as the surveys were administered by mail, it is possible that some questions may have been misinterpreted.
The presence of suicidal feelings prior to an attempt constitutes an opportunity for intervention also in impulsive attempters. However, the identification of impulsiveness requires more research efforts.

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    • "For example, a recent meta-analysis found that impulsivity is a relatively modest predictor of suicide attempts (Anestis et al. 2014). Other studies find no connection between measures of trait impulsivity and more " impulsive " suicide attempts (e.g., attempts made with little planning or forethought) (Wyder & De Leo 2007). Research has also found that most measures of impulsivity are no higher in suicide attempters than in those who have experienced ideation without attempts (Klonsky & May 2010), although this same study found higher impulsivity in those who have experienced either ideation or attempts compared to those without histories of suicidality. "
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    ABSTRACT: Suicidal behavior is a leading cause of death and disability worldwide. Fortunately, recent developments in suicide theory and research promise to meaningfully advance knowledge and prevention. One key development is the ideation-to-action framework, which stipulates that (a) the development of suicidal ideation and (b) the progression from ideation to suicide attempts are distinct phenomena with distinct explanations and predictors. A second key development is a growing body of research distinguishing factors that predict ideation from those that predict suicide attempts. For example, it is becoming clear that depression, hopelessness, most mental disorders, and even impulsivity predict ideation, but these factors struggle to distinguish those who have attempted suicide from those who have only considered suicide. Means restriction is also emerging as a highly effective way to block progression from ideation to attempt. A third key development is the proliferation of theories of suicide that are positioned within the ideation-toaction framework. These include the interpersonal theory, the integrated motivational-volitional model, and the three-step theory. These perspectives can and should inform the next generation of suicide research and prevention. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Clinical Psychology Volume 12 is March 28, 2016. Please see for revised estimates.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2016 · Annual Review of Clinical Psychology
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    • "Impulsivity and aggression are moreover strongly linked to suicidality in several epidemiological, clinical, retrospective, prospective, and family studies.33,35 "
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    Full-text · Article · Sep 2014 · Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment
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    • "Indeed, reactive aggression and impulsive personality characteristics have been recently highlighted as major risk factors for suicidal ideation and behaviour (Pfeffer et al, 2000; Conner et al, 2003; Dougherty et al, 2004; Hull-Blanks et al, 2004; Smith et al, 2008). Although impulsive actions often result in higher likelihood of self-inflicted painful and provocative experiences, they are rarely conducive to attempted and completed suicide, which typically require prior planning (Baca-Garcia et al, 2005; Wyder and De Leo, 2007; Smith et al, 2008; Witte et al, 2008). Conversely, while proactive aggression has been often regarded as unrelated to suicide, recent studies have shown that this subtype is actually associated to suicide attempt in men, but not women (Conner et al., 2009). "
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