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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The Inventory of Motivations for Suicide Attempts (IMSA) : developing and validating a new measure in five samples May, Alexis Merry


Suicide is a leading cause of death worldwide. Despite increased research and prevention efforts, suicide attempt and death rates have not declined. One way to improve suicide prevention is to better understand the motivations for suicide attempts. The field lacks a psychometrically sound, comprehensive measure to routinely why individuals try to end their lives. The Inventory of Motivations for Suicide Attempts (IMSA) was developed to assess motivations for suicide emphasized by major theories of suicidality. The IMSA was administered to five samples of individuals who had attempted suicide: undergraduates (N=66), outpatients (N=53), adult inpatients (N=59), adolescents (N=50), and a community sample recruited online (N=222). Demographic data and characteristics of the suicide attempt (e.g., method, intent, lethality, pre-attempt communication) were also collected. In all five samples, psychache and hopelessness were the most common and strongly endorsed motivations, while interpersonal influence was the least endorsed. Regardless of sample, the individual IMSA scales demonstrated good internal reliability, as did two superordinate IMSA factors identified through exploratory factor analysis. The two superordinate factors captured Internal Motivations (characterized by needing to escape or relieve unmanageable internal emotions and thoughts) and Communication Motivations (characterized by a desire to communicate with or influence another individual) in all samples. These two factors demonstrated good convergent and divergent validity when compared to another measure of suicide motivations. In addition, the IMSA scales displayed clinical utility, in which greater endorsement of Internal Motivations was associated with stronger desire to die, whereas greater endorsement of Communication Motivations was associated with weaker suicide intent and greater likelihood of rescue. Findings support two conclusions: 1) the IMSA provides reliable and valid information about a number of motivations for attempted suicide across diverse participants and situations and 2) that those motivations, their structure, and their clinical correlates are quite consistent. The IMSA can be of use for both research and clinical purposes when a comprehensive assessment of suicide motivations is desired.

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