Objective: This paper outlines a hypothesis linking the development of implicit memory in infants and chronic suicidal thoughts in adults. In order to do this, the developmental trajectory of memory is reviewed, as well as how attachment experiences are encoded in implicit memory. The cognitive/emotional capacity of infants is then compared to the subjective experience of the chronically suicidal patient. This is used to develop the hypothesis that chronic suicidal thoughts are located in implicit memory, encoded very early in life. This idea is then used to explain why common responses by mental health workers to the chronically suicidal patient may inadvertently reinforce suicidal thoughts. Finally, understanding these concepts helps us to understand how psychotherapy can change chronic suicidal ideation. Conclusion: A hypothesis is proposed to link infant memory systems with adult chronic suicidal thoughts, and is used to understand helpful responses for patients who suffer with chronic suicidal ideation.
Australasian Psychiatry Vol. 19, Issue 1, p. 25-29