Approximately half of those who attempt suicide report experiencing suicidal ideation and suicidal planning in advance; others deny these experiences. Some researchers have hypothesized that rapid intensification is due to past suicidal ideation and/or behaviors that are “mentally shelved” but remain available for rapid access later.
To evaluate this hypothesis, we examined (a) temporal sequencing of suicidal ideation, suicidal planning, and suicidal behavior, and (b) speed of emergence of suicidal behavior in a prospective cohort study of 2744 primary care patients.
Of 52 patients reporting suicidal behavior during follow-up, 20 (38.5%) reported suicidal ideation and planning prior to their suicidal behavior, 23 (44.2%) reported suicidal ideation but not planning, and nine (17.3%) denied both suicidal ideation and planning. Over half (n = 30, 57.7%) reported the onset of suicidal ideation and/or planning on the same day as or after their suicidal behavior (i.e., rapid intensification). Rapid intensification was not associated with increased likelihood of reporting recent or past suicidal ideation, planning, or behaviors, suggesting rapid intensification does not depend on prior experience with suicidal ideation and/or behaviors.
Detecting primary care patients at risk for this form of suicidal behavior may be limited even with universal suicide risk screening.