Why do some people in difficult circumstances survive well, while others who may appear to be thriving commit suicide? There is no easy answer to this question; however, the perception of hopelessness experienced by an individual in a given situation appears to be a critical factor. Prof. Beck at the University of Pennsylvania spent many years researching the topic of suicide, including the variables that best predict suicide intent and suicide itself. Somewhat surprising was the finding that neither severity of depression, nor depression per se, was found to be a significant predictor of suicide. Of all the various components of depression, the degree of perceived hopelessness was found to be the single best predictor of suicide (Beck et. al. 1985). Beck & colleagues developed the Hopelessness Scale, a self-report scale that measures an individual’s present degree of hopelessness (Beck et. al., 1974). The scale is widely used in inpatient and outpatient settings today.
Mervin Smucker Ph.D is an international trauma consultant and author of numerous articles and books on trauma and cognitive-behavioural therapy interventions.