Suicide risk assessment: Trust an implicit probe or listen to the patient?

Dominique P Harrison, Werner G K Stritzke, Nicolas Fay, Abdul-Rahman Hudaib

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Previous research suggests implicit cognition can predict suicidal behavior. This study examined the utility of the death/suicide implicit association test (d/s-IAT) in acute and prospective assessment of suicide risk and protective factors, relative to clinician and patient estimates of future suicide risk. Patients (N = 128; 79 female; 111 Caucasian) presenting to an emergency department were recruited if they reported current suicidal ideation or had been admitted because of an acute suicide attempt. Patients completed the d/s-IAT and self-report measures assessing three death-promoting (e.g., suicide ideation) and two life-sustaining (e.g., zest for life) factors, with self-report measures completed again at 3- and 6-month follow-ups. The clinician and patient provided risk estimates of that patient making a suicide attempt within the next 6 months. Results showed that among current attempters, the d/s-IAT differentiated between first time and multiple attempters; with multiple attempters having significantly weaker self-associations with life relative to death. The d/s-IAT was associated with concurrent suicidal ideation and zest for life, but only predicted the desire to die prospectively at 3 months. By contrast, clinician and patient estimates predicted suicide risk at 3- and 6-month follow-up, with clinician estimates predicting death-promoting factors, and only patient estimates predicting life-sustaining factors. The utility of the d/s-IAT was more pronounced in the assessment of concurrent risk. Prospectively, clinician and patient predictions complemented each other in predicting suicide risk and resilience, respectively. Our findings indicate collaborative rather than implicit approaches add greater value to the management of risk and recovery in suicidal patients. (PsycINFO Database Record

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1317-1329
Number of pages13
JournalPsychological Assessment
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018


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