Cognition and Suicide: The Relationship Between Problem-Solving and Suicidal Behavior




Roaten, Kimberly Dayle

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Suicidal behavior impacts thousands of individuals worldwide each year and exacts an incalculable toll on the victims’ family members and loved ones. Past research has examined the role of demographic variables associated with suicidality yielding important information about individuals who engage in suicidal behavior. Despite the significance of these findings, limited data exists linking demographic factors and clinically useful risk assessment. More recently, researchers began examining the role of cognition and suicidal behavior in an effort to elucidate the underpinnings of the suicide mode. Early evidence suggests that study of the time period immediately surrounding the suicide attempt may yield important evidence for risk assessment. The current study examined cognitive variables during the time period immediately following a suicide attempt. Specifically, the primary goal of the study was to explore the relationship between depression, hopelessness, problem-solving skills and suicidality. The study sample included 76 patients presenting for treatment in the Parkland Health and Hospital System: 41 individuals who attempted suicide and required inpatient medical treatment, and 35 suicidal psychiatry emergency room patients. Problem-solving skills, levels of depression and hopelessness, and negative self-cognitions were assessed for each participant in a cross-sectional study design. Results indicated that suicide attempters and suicide ideators did not differ with regard to measures of depression or hopelessness. A relationship between depression and hopelessness and social problem-solving was found, but did not predict study group status. Resistance to premature closure, a measure of an individual’s ability to remain open to potential solutions for problems, was found to be significantly different between the two study groups. However, resistance to premature closure did not correlate with depression or hopelessness. In summary, evidence in support of problem-solving as a mediator between hopelessness/depression and suicide was not found. Preliminary evidence suggests that resistance to premature closure measures an aspect of problem-solving that effectively differentiates between suicide ideators and attempters.

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