Cognitive features of suicidal and depressed individuals  

Roskar S., Zorko M., Repovs G., Bucik V., Marusic A.
First author's affiliation: Institute of Public health of the Republic Slovenia, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Problem solving deficiencies, attentional bias and reduced anticipation of positive events in the future are regarded as cognitive features which can trigger feelings of hopelessness and subsequently suicidal behaviour. The main objective of the study was to evaluate these attributes and to determine whether these cognitive changes improve over time. Three samples of participants were recruited: individuals after suicide attempt (all diagnosed with depressive disorder), individuals with depressive disorder (no suicide attempt), and healthy volunteers. Each participant was interviewed (for personal and family psychiatric history) and individually tested with neuropsychological tests. Beck Hopelessness Scale was applied to determine the rate of hopelessness. All measures were obtained from participants (except from healthy volunteers) shortly after admission and again 8 weeks later in order to assess cognitive changes over time. Results indicate that suicide attempters and depressed individuals are less efficient problem solvers and exhibit greater levels of hopelessness compared to healthy controls. No differences regarding attentional bias were found between the groups. Among all groups, the biggest lack of future positive events anticipation was exhibited by depressed individuals, in particular depressed individuals with suicide ideation. The later group also scored highest on levels of hopelessness. Except for changes in feelings of hopelessness which decreased over time, no differences in cognitive functions were observed between baseline and retesting. Revealed cognitive features are very likely to be involved in the development of the suicidal process. This particularly holds for feelings of hopelessness and reduced anticipation of positive life events.