Patterns of change in suicide ideation signal the recurrence of suicide attempts among high-risk psychiatric outpatients


Suicide ideation is an inherently dynamic construct. Previous research implicates different temporal patterns in suicide ideation among individuals who have made multiple suicide attempts as compared to individuals who have not. Temporal patterns among first-time attempters might therefore distinguish those who eventually make a second suicide attempt. To test this possibility, the present study used a dynamical systems approach to model change patterns in suicide ideation over the course of brief cognitive behavioral therapy for suicide prevention (12 sessions total) among 33 treatment-seeking active duty Soldiers with one prior suicide attempt. Variable-centered models were constructed to determine if change patterns differed between those with and without a follow-up suicide whereas person-centered models were constructed to determine if within-person change patterns were associated with eventual suicide attempts. Severity of suicide ideation was not associated with the occurrence of suicide attempts during follow-up, but person-centered temporal patterns were. Among those who made an attempt during follow-up, suicide ideation demonstrated greater within-person variability across treatment. Results suggest certain change processes in suicide ideation may characterize vulnerability to recurrent suicide attempt among first-time attempters receiving outpatient behavioral treatment. Nonlinear dynamic models may provide advantages for suicide risk assessment and treatment monitoring in clinical settings.

Publication Title

Behaviour Research and Therapy