Seminar Series

Understanding the Transition from Suicidal Thoughts to Suicide Attempts

Suicide and self-harm are major public health concerns with complex aetiologies which encompass a multifaceted array of risk and protective factors. There is growing recognition that we need to move beyond psychiatric categories to further our understanding of the pathways to both. Recent approaches have conceptualised suicide as a behaviour, therefore an appreciation of the psychology of the suicidal mind is central to suicide prevention. Another key challenge is that our understanding of the factors that determine behavioural enaction (i.e., which individuals with suicidal thoughts will act on these thoughts) is limited. Although a comprehensive understanding of these determinants requires an appreciation of biological, psychological and social perspectives in this talk I will specifically focus on the psychological and social determinants of suicidal behaviour. To address these issues, I will describe the Integrated Motivational–Volitional (IMV) Model of Suicidal Behaviour (O’Connor, 2011; O’Connor & Kirtley, 2018) which derives from health, social and clinical psychological theory. This tripartite model maps the relationship between background factors and trigger events, and the development of suicidal ideation/intent through to suicidal behaviour. I will present a selection of clinical, experimental and intervention studies to illustrate how psychological factors increase suicide risk and what can be done to ameliorate such risk. The implications for the prevention of suicide will also be discussed.