Sunil S. Bhar, Ph.D.

Sunil S. Bhar, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania

Pilot Research Grant (2008): $30,000

The Relationship between Positive Mastery Recollections and Hopelessness in Older Adults

Abstract: This study will develop and evaluate a one-session intervention for reducing hopelessness, a key risk factor for suicide, in older adults. Older adults with high levels of hopelessness will be randomized into either an intervention condition involving a personal history interview and mastery memory activation task; or a control condition involving the interview without the memory task. The mastery memory activation task involves participants recollecting memories about their past successes at solving problems. Participants will complete self-report measures of hopelessness and problem-solving efficacy before and after completing the intervention or control procedures, as well as one month and two months following the procedures to determine the sustainability of effects related to the intervention. The study explores whether recalling past problem-solving successes is feasible for older adults, and is associated with some improvement in their levels of hopelessness, a validated risk factor for suicide. By identifying this, the study would provide a platform for future research to investigate the mechanisms of the outcomes associated with the intervention; the long-term stability of these therapeutic outcomes; and the efficacy of various delivery options for the intervention in primary care settings, as a component of a broader treatment approach for older patients at risk for suicide.