The effects of suicide ideation assessments on urges to self-harm and suicide
Eynan, R., Bergmans, Y., Antony, J., Cutcliffe, J.R., Harder, H.G., Ambreen, M., ... & Links, P.S.
Background: Participants' safety is the primary concern when conducting research with suicidal or potentially suicidal participants. The presence of suicide risk is often an exclusion criterion for research participants. Subsequently, few studies have examined the effects of research assessments on study participants' suicidality. Aims: The purpose of this research was to examine the patterns of postassessment changes in self-harm and suicide urges of study participants who were recently discharged from an inpatient psychiatric service. Method: Study participants (N = 120) were recruited from patients with a lifetime history of suicidal behavior admitted with current suicidal ideation or suicide attempt to an inpatient psychiatric service and/or a crisis stabilization unit. Participants were assessed for suicidal ideation with the Suicide Ideation Scale at 1, 3, and 6 months following their discharge from hospital. The risk assessment protocol was administered at the start and at the end of each of the study follow-up assessments. Results: Changes in self-harm and suicide urges following study assessments were small, infrequent, and were most likely to reflect a decrease in suicidality. Similarly, participants rarely reported worsening self-control over suicidal urges, and when they did, the effect was minimal. By the end of the 6-month follow-up period, increases in self-harm and suicidal urges postassessment were not seen. Conclusion: The inclusion of suicidal participants in research interviews rarely increased suicide risk. Research involving suicidal individuals is possible when study protocols are well planned and executed by trained assessors and clinicians who are able to identify participants at risk and provide intervention if necessary. The few participants that required intervention had high levels of suicide ideation and behavior at baseline and almost all reported symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder. Further study is needed to better characterize this subgroup of participants.