Visits to emergency departments (EDs) for suicidal ideation or a suicide attempt have increased in the past decades. Yet comprehensive models of suicide are scarce, potentially enhancing misunderstandings from health professionals. This study aimed to investigate the applicability of the interpersonal-psychological theory of suicide (IPTS) in a population visiting EDs for suicide-related issues.
Three major hypotheses formulated by the IPTS were tested in a sample of 167 individuals visiting EDs for suicidal ideation or a suicide attempt.
As predicted by the IPTS, greater levels of perceived burdensomeness (PB) were associated with presence of current suicidal ideation. However, contrary to the theory assumptions, thwarted belongingness (TB) was not predictive of current suicidal ideation (Hypothesis 1). Similarly, the interaction between PB, TB and hopelessness did not account for the transition from passive to active suicidal ideation (Hypothesis 2). The interaction between active suicidal ideation and fearlessness of death did not either predict the transition from active suicidal ideation to suicidal intent (Hypothesis 3).
The cross-sectional design limited the interpretation of causal hypotheses. Patients visiting EDs during nights and weekends were underrepresented. A general measure of hopelessness was considered, not a measure of hopelessness specifically related to PB and TB.
Although the three hypotheses were only partially verified, health professionals might consider the IPTS as useful for the management of patient with suicide-related issues. Clinical intervention based on perceived burdensomeness could notably be proposed shortly after ED admission.