The Frequency and Subjective Impact of Painful and Provocative Events on the Acquired Capability for Suicide

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Background: Leading theoretical explanations for suicide state that for suicide death to occur, a person must have sufficient capability to enact an attempt. Exposure to painful and provocative events is hypothesized to play an important role in acquiring the capability for suicide over a lifetime. Unfortunately, assessment tools for painful and provocative events have focused solely on the frequency of events, neglecting the potential contributions of perceived impact. Further, past measurements have used predetermined items for painful and provocative events thereby neglecting other relevant events. The current study uses visual analog scales (VAS) to assess both the frequency and impact of painful and provocative events and how these contribute to the capability for suicide.

Method: Data were collected from 787 adults via Amazon’s online platform.

Results: Findings indicated that the frequency VAS and impact VAS both had a moderate correlation with the original Painful and Provocative Events Scale. Greater scores on the frequency VAS were associated with increased capability, whereas lower scores on the subjective impact VAS were associated with increased capability scores. Both VAS independently predicted capability above and beyond the PPES.

Limitations: Temporal or causal associations are unable to be drawn due to cross-sectional data. In addition, the sample was largely homogenous (White = 72%, female = 63.5%), limiting generalizability.

Conclusions: These initial findings demonstrate individuals who perceive painful and provocative events as being less impactful may have increased capability, and that VAS may be appropriate to approximate the impact and frequency of painful and provocative events.

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Archives of Suicide Research

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