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SUICIDE RESEARCH TEAM

Past Research

ADHD Symptoms, Coping, and Reasons for Living (Jones & Drapeau)

Many researchers have attempted to identify risk factors for suicide which can include: psychiatric disorders, impulsivity, poor coping skills and comorbidity. Psychiatric disorders have been studied extensively, but few studies have focused on ADHD and suicide, although impulsivity is a key symptom in both. People with ADHD often experience problems coping with daily-life stressors (Young, 2005) and have comorbid mood or anxiety disorders (Joe & Niedermeier, 2008). Therefore, people with ADHD seem to experience multiple risk factors for suicide. A major hypothesis of the present study was that symptoms of ADHD, in general, and impulsivity, specifically, would be correlated with more maladaptive coping skills and less reasons for living.

As predicted, people with more severe ADHD symptoms experienced more negative coping and fewer reasons for not committing suicide. Surprisingly, significant relationships were found between all symptoms of ADHD and the use of negative coping mechanisms. Additionally, the symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity led to significantly lower global scores on the Reasons for Living Inventory (RFL). However, contrary to hypothesis, impulsivity was only related to specific facets of the RFL. The results demonstrate that individuals with ADHD experience several risk factors for suicide that may not be fully accounted for by impulsivity, an established risk factor for suicide. These results illustrate the need for further study into ADHD, coping and suicide.

Commonalities of Creativity and Suicide in College Students (Drapeau)

More than 1,000 college students die by suicide each year. Commonly found among these suicides are students who are highly creative, mentally ill, and attending highly competitive schools. Research has demonstrated that the risk of suicide is most acute in students displaying hypomania, impulsivity, psychosis, and a personality trait called psychoticism. Interestingly, these four risk factors are also exhibited in highly creative college students. Hypomania was the most significant contributor to creativity and suicide among the four variables. Elevations in hypomanic symptoms were found among the most creative students and those at risk for repeated suicide attempts. A self-report questionnaire entitled the Hypomania Checklist-32 (HCL-32) identifies two dimensions of hypomania (active/elated and irritable/risk-taking). Future research should investigate potential relationships between the two dimensions, and creativity and suicide in college students. The active/elated dimension may contribute to higher creativity while the irritable/risk-taking dimension may lead to increased risk for suicidal behavior.

The relationship of hypomania, creativity, and suicidal ideation in undergraduates (Drapeau)

Elevations in hypomanic symptoms have been found among highly creative students and those at risk for repeated suicide attempts (Bryan, Johnson, Rudd, & Joiner Jr., 2008; Lyubomirsky et al., 2005). It was hypothesized that participants exhibiting active/elated symptoms of hypomania would show higher levels of creativity and lower suicidal ideation than those participants exhibiting irritable/risk-taking symptoms, or no symptoms of hypomania whatsoever.

Results indicated that the active/elated dimension and irritable/risking dimensions of hypomania were not significantly correlated to creative achievement, divergent thinking, or suicidal ideation. However, suicidal ideation was significantly correlated with creative achievement and divergent thinking.

Among the ten domains of creative achievement, architectural design, creative writing, dance, theatre/film, and visual arts were significantly correlated with suicidal ideation. Past research has identified a risk for suicide among individuals engaged in visual arts, creative writing, theater/film, and dance, but the relationship found between architectural design and suicidal ideation in a non-clinical college student population has yet to be found in an empirical study.

It should be noted that the hypomania instrument used for this study (HCL-32) lacked sensitivity for a non-clinical college student population. Hypomania may be a significant contributor to suicidal ideation and creativity in a college student population. Future research should focus on using an instrument that is more sensitive to this specific population.

Curriculum Development for Undergraduate Education in Suicidology: Models, Barriers, Experiences, and Significance

D. S. DeBrule Ph.D., M. J. Pusateri M.A., D. Jahn B.S., B.A., D. J. Hannah M.S., M. R. Nadorff M.S., C. Drapeau B.G.S.

This presentation presented views of undergraduate education as a means to alter the legacy of suicide by promoting increased awareness and exposure to suicide early in the educational process. Such education is not common at the graduate level, thus, teaching students to appreciate the value of suicide education and disseminating it to various colleagues and programs is a means of improving this problem. One component of this presentation by Ms. Jahn and Mr. Pusateri introduced the results of a nationwide study on prevalence of, beliefs about, and barriers to undergraduate suicidology education. This survey was initiated by the graduate student task force of AAS, and thus, this presentation itself illustrates how valuable undergraduate education may be for select students who specialize in suicidality as graduate students. Additionally, this presentation also underscored the value of a suicide course for many students who have careers in business, health care, and media where suicide myth and ignorance may be prevalent.

Three existing models of current courses in suicide for undergraduates were presented. Mr. Hannah spoke about his experiences as a former teaching assistant and instructor for an undergraduate suicidology course that focuses on suicide prevention and crisis intervention, as well as the modifications he made that improved the course for students. Mr. Nadorff discussed his position as the co- instructor of an undergraduate suicidology course that discusses suicide across the lifespan, and how the course was created and implemented. Mr. Drapeau spoke about his experience as a former student and as a teaching assistant in an undergraduate suicidology course initially created by Dr. John McIntosh. He also addressed the curriculum improvements that Dr. DeBrule has implemented for this multidisciplinary course over the past four years, and about the influence of the course on his research and career interests.

Syllabi and other materials for the courses taught were made available to all participants. Dr. DeBrule presented a variety of suggestions on creating a suicide course and on teaching the course to undergraduates. Issues such as the discipline of the course, self-disclosure of student mental illness or suicidality, sensitivity to survivors, and creation of meaningful activities were discussed. Also, curriculum modifications such as integrating a service component and addition of recent readings or articles in popular and academic sources were addressed.

Interaction Between Exposure to, Attitudes Toward and Knowledge of Suicide (Jones)

Exposure to suicide has been consistently cited as a risk factor for suicidal behavior (Ventrice, Valach, Reisch & Michel, 2010). With this in mind, the present study examined if exposure to suicide had an impact on attitudes toward and knowledge of suicide. It was hypothesized that exposure at a younger age would lead to more accepting attitudes toward suicide. It was also hypothesized that exposure at an older age would equate to increased knowledge seeking and knowledge in general.

Several unexpected findings did emerge. Exposure, in general, did lead to more accepting attitudes toward suicide. Another important finding was that taking a course that discuses suicide briefly did not lead to higher scores on the Expanded Revised Facts on Suicide Quiz (ERFOS). This is important given that most (34.8%) of the participants gained knowledge of suicide in this manner. Additionally, even though visiting a suicide website or hotline obtained significance, taking an entire course on suicide demonstrated the strongest relationship with scores on the ERFOS. This is especially pertinent given that 20.3% of participants visited a website or hotline and only 2.9% took a semester long course on suicide.