Dissertation Award

Example Abstracts

Mechanisms Driving Suicidal Ideation to Action: The Impact of Rumination and Physiological Arousal on Momentary Fluctuations in Pain Tolerance and Persistence
Keyne Law, PhD

To prevent suicide, it is crucial to understand the mechanisms and processes associated with deaths by suicide. The capability for suicide is a critical factor that enables an individual to endure the physical pain necessary to make a lethal suicide attempt (Joiner, 2005; Klonsky & May, 2015). Few studies have examined whether the ability to tolerate and persist through pain are subject to momentary fluctuations during different emotional contexts. This study sought to directly compare the effects of sadness rumination and anger rumination on pain tolerance and pain persistence. Furthermore, this study aimed to examine the effect of heart rate on the aforementioned relationships. Specifically, it was hypothesized that rumination, particularly anger rumination, will elevate pain tolerance and pain persistence indirectly through increased heart rate. A sample of 82 undergraduate students were randomly assigned into one of four conditions: control, anger, sadness, or anger with sadness and underwent an idiographic emotion (Pitman et al., 1987) and rumination induction (Nolen-Hoeksema & Morrow, 1993). They completed subjective and behavioral measures assessing emotion, impulsivity, and pain tolerance. Heart rate was measured at baseline, during cold pressor tests, following the cold pressor tests, and during both the emotion and rumination induction tasks. The results of this study suggest that only pain threshold may be subject to momentary fluctuations. The emotions on which participants were asked to ruminate also did not influence changes in their pain responses or heart rate throughout the experiment.

Law, Keyne (2018). Mechanisms Driving Suicidal Ideation to Action: The Impact of Rumination and Cardiovascular Reactivity on Momentary Fluctuations in Pain Tolerance and Persistence. Dissertations. 1551. https://aquila.usm.edu/dissertations/1551

Investigating the Selection Choice of “Prefer Not to Disclose” in Self-Report Suicide Risk Screening
Matthew C. Podlogar, MS

Reliance on self-reported screening for suicide risk may be contributing to a lack of progress in suicide prevention, in part, because of limitations related to stigma, ambivalence, and deception in responding. One change to potentially mitigate these issues and improve screening effectiveness is to allow for explicit selective disclosure of information, specifically by including a “prefer not to disclose” option in screening items. This study aimed to achieve the following: (1) investigate whether selective disclosure is a valid and reliable construct of suicide risk among high risk populations, (2) identify causal mechanisms and moderators of selective disclosure, and (3) investigate the relationship between selective disclosure and death/suicide implicit association (d/s-IAT). These aims were investigated using online self-report surveys across three independent samples of adults in higher-risk and lower help-seeking populations, and who reported high current distress: Military and veterans (n = 135), men over age 50, (n = 187), and LGBTQ young adults (n = 140). Across groups, results indicated that selective disclosure was highly specific to individuals who reported higher risk for suicide, and was prevalent in approximately one out of four participants who endorsed some level of suicide risk. Above and beyond explicit report of suicide risk, reported inaccuracy of risk disclosure, low help seeking, and hopelessness were the only predictors significantly associated with selective disclosure across all groups. Qualitative results also highlighted the importance of “mistrust,” “misunderstanding,” and “fear of stigmatized consequences” as drivers for selective disclosure. Personality traits and mode of assessment did not appear to affect likelihood for selective disclosure. Implicit association to death/suicide was significantly associated with explicit report of suicide risk across all groups, but was not associated with selective disclosure. These results suggest that adding explicit selective disclosure choices to suicide risk screening items is unlikely to substantially increase screening sensitivity, as nearly all selective disclosers self-reported elevated suicide risk. However, allowing for and evaluating explicit selective disclosure among suicide risk reporters may provide useful information for risk assessment and follow-up, and preemptively addressing drivers for selective disclosure before or during suicide risk screening may increase screening effectiveness.

Podlogar, M. C. (2018). Selective Disclosure in Self-Reported Suicide Risk Screening (Doctoral dissertation, The Florida State University). https://search.proquest.com/openview/7c166a1731165bf9c72cef8c30272059/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=18750&diss=y

Insomnia drives changes in suicide ideation: A latent difference score model of community adults over a brief interval
Kelly Zuromski, PhD

Insomnia is robustly associated with suicidal behavior (Bernert, Kim, Iwata, & Perlis, 2015), but limitations in existing studies hinder nuanced understanding of this relationship. The current study aimed to address limitations by utilizing a longitudinal design and advanced statistical modeling. Participants who endorsed lifetime experience of suicidal behavior were recruited through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (N = 589) and completed self-report online surveys at six time points over a 15-day period. Latent difference score modeling was utilized to investigate whether levels and/or changes in insomnia symptoms drive subsequent changes in suicide ideation, or vice versa. Results revealed that previous level of insomnia was predictive of positive changes in suicide ideation (e.g., level of insomnia at Wave 2 predicted lagged increases in suicide ideation at Wave 3). This relationship was not bidirectional (i.e., suicide ideation exerted no effects on insomnia). Additionally, only previous level, and not previous changes, in insomnia were predictive of changes in suicide ideation. Our results help clarify the nature of the relationship between insomnia and suicide ideation as one that is unidirectional, thereby offering evidence of insomnia as a variable risk factor for suicide ideation. These findings yield clinical implications, including the importance of screening for insomnia symptoms, and provide support for exploring the potential effectiveness of insomnia treatments to target suicide ideation. Moreover, our study design and methodology establish a foundation for more rigorous and nuanced investigations of imminent suicide risk in future studies, which ultimately can promote better clinical practice in the reduction in suicidal behavior.

Zuromski, K. (2016). Insomnia drives changes in suicide ideation: A latent difference score model of community adults over a brief interval. https://etd.auburn.edu/bitstream/handle/10415/5320/Zuromski%20Dissertation%20-%20Final%20Submission.pdf?sequence=2&isAllowed=n