Igor Galynker, M.D., Ph.D., Beth Israel Medical Center
Standard Research Grant (2009): $75,000
Predicting Suicidal Behavior: Internal Consistency and Predictive Validity of the Suicide Trigger Scale
Abstract: Currently available tools have only modest predictive power for identifying individuals at the greatest risk for future suicide attempts. The goal of this project is to develop a scale to operationalize and measure a clinically identified emotional “trigger state” that puts individuals with suicidal ideation at increased risk of acting on these ideations. In patients who attempted suicide we have identified a clinical “trigger” state (termed suicidal trigger state) which preceded the suicide attempt and is characterized by fear of entrapment, dread, confused thinking, pain or pressure in the head, and a sense of disconnection from reality. In our preliminary work we have developed the Suicide Trigger Scale (STS) to measure this state and have found that patients with higher scores on the STS are more likely to have had prior suicide attempts while those with low scores are more likely to have had only suicidal ideation. We now propose to further develop and refine the STS in order to determine its reliability in a high-risk patient population drawn from an emergency room setting and to establish its ability to predict future suicide attempts in this setting. This research is building on their early results with STS, further refining it into an instrument that can be used in office settings or in emergency rooms to directly identify patients who are at greatest risk of suicide and whose lives can be saved by timely intervention.