Date of Award

Fall 12-2020

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

Daniel W. Capron

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Randolph Arnau

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Michael Anestis

Committee Member 3 School



Research shows that suicidal behavior is not a result of a single cause or single event, but instead is an interaction of facilitators. One potential facilitator that needs further exploration is dissociation. Dissociation has been consistently linked to suicidal behavior, and treatment for dissociative disorders seem to be associated with a reduction of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. Prior theories have posited that dissociation increases the possibility of a suicidal act because of intensified disconnect from the body. However, these theories do not indicate whether dissociation is a facilitator of suicide risk by increasing suicidal ideation, attempt behaviors, and capability for suicide. Additionally, unique considerations of working with suicidal individuals have caused suicide research to lag behind research where laboratory manipulation is possible. Virtual Reality (VR) technology is potentially a translational approach to studying suicide causes. Undergraduate psychology students (n = 145) recruited through USM’s SONA pool completed either a dissociation induction task (experimental) or a neutral virtual reality experience (control) and then decided whether to engage in a virtual suicide option. Results showed that those who reported higher dissociation scores also reported higher suicide risk and capability for suicide. However, those with higher acute dissociation scores did not significantly predict engaging in virtual suicide. Results indicate that it is possible certain facets of dissociation (i.e., depersonalization and derealization) may be more relevant when assessing suicide risk. In conclusion, dissociation should be considered as a factor in the assessment and treatment of suicide risk.