Behind impulsive suicide attempts: Indications from a community study
Aim 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. Methods 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. Results 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. Limitations 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. Conclusions 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.
Journal of Affective Disorders