In Conversation with Professor Rory O'Connor

The Life in Mind team invited renowned suicide researcher Professor Rory O’Connor to present to national leaders within suicide prevention and mental health sectors as part of a thought leadership event entitled In Conversation: with Professor Rory O'Connor.

The event also formed part of the 2018 Trevor Waring Expert in Residence series.

Professor Rory O’Connor is a well-respected figure in the suicide prevention sector with more than 20 years’ experience as a researcher, clinician and suicide prevention advocate.

Professor Rory O’Connor leads the Suicidal Behaviour Research Laboratory (SBRL) at the University of Glasgow.

The Integrated Motivational-Volitional (IMV) Model of Suicidal Behaviour* was first proposed in 2011 by Rory O'Connor.

The aim of the model was to synthesize, distil and extend our knowledge and understanding of why people die by suicide, with a particular focus on the psychology of the suicidal mind. The model was developed from the recognition that suicide is characterised by a complex interplay of biology, psychology, environment and culture, and that we need to move beyond psychiatric categories if we are to further understand the causes of suicidal malaise.

In brief, the IMV Model is a tripartite model that proposes that suicidal behaviour results from a complex interplay of factors, the proximal predictor of, which is one’s intention to engage in suicidal behaviour. Intention, in turn, is determined by feelings of entrapment where suicidal behaviour is seen as the salient solution to life circumstances. These feelings of being trapped are triggered by defeat/humiliation appraisals, which are often associated with chronic or acute stressors. The transitions from the defeat/humiliation stage to entrapment, from entrapment to suicidal ideation/intent, and from ideation/intent to suicidal behaviour are determined by stage-specific moderators (i.e., factors that facilitate/obstruct movement between stages).

In addition, background factors (e.g., deprivation, vulnerabilities) and life events (e.g., relationship crisis), which comprise the pre-motivational phase (i.e., before the commencement of ideation formation), provide the broader biosocial context for suicide. In essence, the three parts of the model could be summarised as follows: (1) Background Factors (Pre-motivational phase; the context in which suicide may occur), (2) Development of Suicidal Thoughts (Motivational phase; how/why suicidal thinking emerges) and (3) Attempting Suicide (Volitional Phase; factors associated with acting upon one's thoughts of suicide).