This study served as an initial investigation of the role hopelessness may play in the relationship between PTSD symptom change and suicide intent, among a trauma-exposed, treatment-seeking sample. We explored whether the effect of PTSD symptom change on self-reported likelihood of a future suicide attempt (FSA) varies as a function of pre-treatment hopelessness, and whether reductions in hopelessness serve as a mechanism through which PTSD symptom change influences FSA likelihood.
Data was collected from participants (N = 159) in a larger randomized clinical trial of a suicide risk-factor intervention. Self-report questionnaires assessed hopelessness, PTSD symptoms, depression symptoms, and FSA likelihood at pre-treatment and one-month follow-up.
Pre-treatment hopelessness emerged as a significant moderator, such that overall PTSD symptom reductions were related to overall decreases in FSA likelihood among those at or above (but not those below) the sample mean of pre-treatment hopelessness. In a subsample of individuals who reported FSA likelihood > 0 and elevated hopelessness at pre-treatment, overall pre-treatment-to-month-one reductions in hopelessness significantly mediated the relationship between overall PTSD symptom reductions and decreased FSA likelihood during this same time period, even after accounting for depression symptom changes.
Data were limited to self-report measures (i.e., hopelessness, FSA likelihood). The intervention was not PTSD-specific. Mediation analyses were strictly statistical due to overlapping time-points.
This preliminary investigation suggests pre-treatment hopelessness may serve to identify trauma-exposed individuals for whom PTSD treatment would significantly reduce FSA likelihood. Moreover, reductions in FSA likelihood during treatment may be due in part to reduced hopelessness.