The Riggs Blog

"Suicide: From Chronic Risk to Imminent Danger"

Have you ever wanted to ask someone who has committed suicide or attempted suicide what they were thinking or feeling? What led up to this decision and why didn't they tell anyone or seek help? Could anyone have stopped this from happening and did they imagine the reactions of the people left behind? Dr. Jane Tillman's research at Austen Riggs asks these questions to participants who have made a near lethal suicide attempt prior to their admission to Austen Riggs.  In her States of Mind Study, researchers interview participants about their state of mind hours preceding a suicide attempt.  The study also looks at measures of resilience, impulsiveness, and psychic pain, and uses Marsha Linehan’s Reasons for Living Inventory to learn more about the characteristics of Riggs’ patients.

Suicide is a public health crisis and a leading cause of death in adolescents and young adults. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there were an average of 105 suicides per day in 2010. Understanding the psychological processes that mark a shift from chronic risk to imminent danger is challenging. Dr. Tillman will present at the Erikson Lecture at the Yale Child Study Center on April 2 where she will review some risk and protective factors in suicidal individuals and use research findings to begin to identify psychological processes associated with acute risk. 

Dr. Tillman's study follows over 130 participants, all of whom have an Axis I disorder. Diagnoses of participants included: Substance Use Disorder, Mood Disorder, Anxiety Disorder and Psychotic Disorder. Among the 131 participants were suicide attempters, non-attempters and near lethal attempters. During Dr. Tillman's talk she will discuss the ratings of moods prior to the attempt, which include thoughts on hopelessness, depression, emptiness among others.  Her study is funded with grants from the International Psychoanalytic Association, the American Psychoanalytic Association and the Erikson Institute.

The Riggs research department studies the psychodynamic and psychosocial aspects of patients' lives, emotional difficulties and treatments. Researchers/psychoanalysts have the unique opportunity to build relationships with patients in order to deepen the interview process and bring the learning of the Erikson Institute and Austen Riggs into the healthcare field and public community.

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