Brief measures of physical and psychological distance to suicide methods as correlates and predictors of suicide risk: A multi-study prospective investigation
Rogers, M.L., Hom, M.A., Stanley, I.H., & Joiner, T.E.
A core component of suicide risk assessment and management is determining one’s physical proximity to specific suicide means and counseling individuals to minimize their physical access to these means. However, this approach ignores other potentially relevant parameters, such as perceptions of how psychologically close/distant one feels to a particular suicide method. The present study examined the degree to which novel, brief measures of physical and psychological distance to suicide methods were associated with and prospectively predicted suicide-related outcomes at (1) two-month follow-up among 121 students with current/recent suicidality; and (2) one-week follow-up among 91 community-dwelling adults at high suicide risk. Results indicated that both physical and psychological distance to means were related to suicidal intent at baseline. Additionally, in Study 2, lower psychological distance, but not physical distance, predicted suicidal intent and increased likelihood of having made suicide plans and suicide preparations at one-week follow-up. Overall, these findings highlight the importance of considering not only physical proximity to suicide means, but also psychological distance, pointing to the potential import of assessing and intervening upon psychological distance during lethal means counseling. Our findings also highlight the potential clinical utility of two brief measures of physical and psychological closeness to suicide means.