Detecting suicidal thoughts: The power of ecological momentary assessment
Gratch, I., Choo, T-H., Galfalvy, H., Keilp, J.G., Itzhaky, L., Mann, J.J., ... Stanley, B.
Researchers and clinicians have typically relied on retrospective reports to monitor suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Smartphone technology has made real‐time monitoring of suicidal thoughts possible via mobile ecological momentary assessment (EMA). However, little is known about how information gleaned from EMA compares with that obtained by retrospective reports. The authors sought to compare suicidal ideation (SI) assessed over 1 week using EMA with a retrospective gold‐standard interviewer‐administered measure covering the same period.
Fifty‐one adults with major depressive disorder completed 1 week of EMA (6×/day) assessing SI. Following completion of EMA, participants completed an interviewer‐administered Scale for Suicide Ideation (SSI) retrospectively assessing the same week.
SI severity assessed through EMA was positively correlated with scores on the retrospective SSI. However, 58% of participants reporting ideation with EMA denied any past‐week ideation on the SSI. Participants who endorsed SI during EMA but not on the SSI were no less likely to have a history of suicidal behavior than those who reported SI in both formats.
EMA captures instances of suicidal thinking that go undetected through retrospective report and thereby may help us to identify an at‐risk subgroup otherwise missed.