What is it about?

Impulsivity in ADHD might increase risk for suicide. We examined whether getting an ADHD diagnosis in veteran health care related to either history of suicide attempt or to the clinician also perceiving higher suicide risk. We found that getting an ADHD diagnosis did not relate to either, but other diagnoses such as depression did.

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Why is it important?

Veterans are at increased risk for suicide. Many studies relating ADHD to increased suicide attempt have not controlled well for other mental disorders, however, and several studies that have suggested that linkages between ADHD and suicide are mediated by comorbid mood disorders in participants like major depression that are much more consistently linked to suicide. This paper supports and extends those findings in an at-risk population, using a rigorous ADHD determination that included interview and laboratory performance metrics..


As a researcher on the biological and brain basis of impulsivity, I was surprised by the negative finding related to ADHD specifically. In fact, I had pre-registered the opposite hypothesis on the Open Science Framework. The contra-intuitive finding became not so contra-intuitive, however, when I perused further literature. The findings also reflect the very controversial and mixed findings relating impulsivity to suicidality, where, for example, impulsivity may only play a role in a minority of suicides.

James Bjork
Hunter Holmes McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Suicidal ideation and clinician-rated suicide risk in veterans referred for ADHD evaluation at a VA Medical Center., Psychological Services, April 2022, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/ser0000659.
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