Improving the detection and prediction of suicidal behavior among military personnel by measuring suicidal beliefs: An evaluation of the Suicide Cognitions Scale


Background Newer approaches for understanding suicidal behavior suggest the assessment of suicide-specific beliefs and cognitions may improve the detection and prediction of suicidal thoughts and behaviors. The Suicide Cognitions Scale (SCS) was developed to measure suicide-specific beliefs, but it has not been tested in a military setting. Methods Data were analyzed from two separate studies conducted at three military mental health clinics (one U.S. Army, two U.S. Air Force). Participants included 175 active duty Army personnel with acute suicidal ideation and/or a recent suicide attempt referred for a treatment study (Sample 1) and 151 active duty Air Force personnel receiving routine outpatient mental health care (Sample 2). In both samples, participants completed self-report measures and clinician-administered interviews. Follow-up suicide attempts were assessed via clinician-administered interview for Sample 1. Statistical analyses included confirmatory factor analysis, between-group comparisons by history of suicidality, and generalized regression modeling. Results Two latent factors were confirmed for the SCS: Unloveability and Unbearability. Each demonstrated good internal consistency, convergent validity, and divergent validity. Both scales significantly predicted current suicidal ideation (βs >0.316, ps <0.002) and significantly differentiated suicide attempts from nonsuicidal self-injury and control groups (F(6, 286)=9.801, p<0.001). Both scales significantly predicted future suicide attempts (AORs>1.07, ps <0.050) better than other risk factors. Limitations Self-report methodology, small sample sizes, predominantly male samples. Conclusions The SCS is a reliable and valid measure that predicts suicidal ideation and suicide attempts among military personnel better than other well-established risk factors. © 2014 Elsevier B.V.

Publication Title

Journal of Affective Disorders