comparisons of psychological pain scales

Suicide attempts are the leading reason why people go to see a mental health professional. What does it mean after an attempt and will the person get the help they need. There are many assessments on risks but few deal with the psychological pain that is attached to the attempt. In my research I have found three clinicians that have developed assessments to help deal with this issue. They are Dr. David Jobes from Catholic University of America, Dr. Israel Orbach in Israel, and Dr. Ronald Holden from Queen’s university in Canada.

Dr. David Jobes wrote and developed what is known as a suicide status form and believes that by collaborating with the client, you can decrease the suicidality (Jobes, 2006; Jobes & Drozd, 2004; Michel & Jobes, 2011). The form consists of three parts: initial, tracking, and outcome. The initial form has the initial evaluation of suicidality, followed by a treatment plan agreed upon by both client and clinician, and then clinical notes such as axis I diagnosis, mood status and session outcome (follow up appt, discharge, or hospitalization). The tracking and outcome are similar in nature. Tracking follows the suicidality. This is used until suicidality is resolved. I base his study on research articles and the two books he has written on the subject.

Dr. Ronald Holden was able to validate his scale of psychache that has helped to focus treatment on psychological pain. This is a 13 item scale rated on a Likert rating of 1-5. The total number of points is 65. The higher the psychache, the higher risk of suicide. The first 9 items deal with the psychological underpinning of what is causing suicidal thinking. The last 4 items deal with the likelihood that this person will act on it. His work I base on his research article.

Israel Orbach (Orbach, Mandrusiak, Gilboa-Schectman, & Sirota, 2003; Orbach, Mikulincer, Sirota, & Gilboa-Schectman, 2003) also has a mental pain scale but has 44 items and cannot be used, in this author’s opinion, in the clinical setting but does have some merit in the initial evaluation of psychological pain. The overall score is intricate and complex as it breaks down the 44 items into quartiles. The study was very small, less than 50 participants and was broken down into two parts. I base his study on his research article.

These combined formed my contention that psychological pain is a causal factor in suicidal thinking.

Suicide status form:
This is a collaborative effort between client and therapist in understanding the reason why a person is suicidal. These forms, initial, tracking, and outcome, provide a base for which to form a treatment plan for working on decreasing suicidality. It was built on the theories of multiple clinicians in the field of suicidality. These clinicians are Shneidman (Shneidman, 1993), who focused on psychological pain, Beck, who focused on cognitive treatment of depression, Baumeister (Baumeister, 1990), escape theory in suicide as escape from self, Linehan (Linehan, Goodstein, Lars Nielson, & Chiles, 1983), reasons for living when you want to die, and Jobes (Jobes, 1995), tracking suicidality.

Dr. Jobes has developed an assessment tool and mangement for suicidality. This management includes the suicide status form (SSF) and uniquely tailors the treatment around individual needs. This is based on the client’s direct input into their treatment. This collaboration takes away the therapist as expert and puts the client in charge of treatment. This also makes things more comfortable and meaningful. Dr. Jobes believes that by tracking the course of treatment, there may be better outcomes and those that are suicidal do not go by the way side, meaning get lost in the system or are ignored after their treatment ends. In his seminal work (Jobes, 1995), he found that nearly half of those that reported to be stressed and suicidal responded to treatment. The other half either dropped out of treatment, got hospitalized, or remained chronically suicidal. This propelled him to develop the SSF to keep track of the suicidal clients and their outcome.

OMMP: Orbach and Mikulinger Mental Pain Scale.
This scale is a 44 item assessment that measures mental pain on nine factors ranging from irreversibility, loss of control, narcissist wounds, emotional flooding, freezing, self-estrangement, confusion, social distancing, and emptiness. These factors are what contributes to mental pain as explained by the authors (see Orbach et al, 2003). Items are scored on a Likert scale of 1-5. In my opinion, given the complexity of this assessment, it cannot be used for clinical use but does hold a valuable research tool.

Holden scale.
Dr. Holden’s psychache scale is a thirteen question self-report of items based upon Shneidman’s book, Suicide as Psychache (1993). Psychache is defined as despair, anguish, hopelessness, and psychological pain one feels. Each items are ranked on a 1-5 point scale ranging from never to always agree, neither, or from strongly disagree to strongly agree (Holden, Mehta, Cunningham, & McLeod, 2001). Scores are from thirteen to sixty-five. This scale is easy to use and can be used clinically, with the permission of the author to reproduce it. What I like about this scale is that it is user friendly, scores can be added quickly, and the tracking of suicide can be seen. With higher results, suicide is more likely to occur. The lower the score, the lower the risk of suicide.

These three assessments are comparatively the same but are just called different things. The main point of suicide ideation is to find out what is driving the person to think about suicide and to try and prevent it from happening. Ideally these scales should be used in the first session and the Holden and/or SSF used thereafter.

Baumeister, R. (1990). Suicide as Escape From Self. Psychological Review, 97(1), 90-113.
Holden, R. R., Mehta, K., Cunningham, E., & McLeod, L. D. (2001). Development and preliminary validation of a scale of psychache. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 33(4), 224-232.
Jobes, D. A. (1995). The challenge and the promise of clinical suicidology. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 25(4), 437-449.
Jobes, D. A. (2006). Managing suicidal risk: A collaborative approach. New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Jobes, D. A., & Drozd, J. F. (2004). The CAMS approach to working with suicidal patients. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, 34(1), 73-85.
Linehan, M., Goodstein, J., Lars Nielson, S., & Chiles, J. (1983). Reasons for Staying Alive When You Are Thinking of Killing Yourself: The Reasons for Living Inventory. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 51(2), 276-286.
Michel, K., & Jobes, D. A. (2011). Building a therapeutic alliance with the suicidal patient. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association; US.
Orbach, I., Mandrusiak, M., Gilboa-Schectman, E., & Sirota, P. (2003). Mental Pain and Its Relationship to Suicidality and Life Meaning. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 33(3), 231-241.
Orbach, I., Mikulincer, M., Sirota, P., & Gilboa-Schectman, E. (2003). Mental Pain: A Multidimensional Operationalization and Definition. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 33(3), 219-230.
Shneidman, E. S. (1993). Suicide as psychache: A clinical approach to self-destructive behavior. Lanham, MD: Jason Aronson.

Copyright 2013 Collerone, G

5 thoughts on “comparisons of psychological pain scales

  1. “what is driving the person to think about suicide & try 2 prevent if’ IF I KNEW or ANY ONE KNEW what was driving, I’d go to shrink, tell him/her & work 2 get it ‘fixed’! But THAT’S the PROBLEM~i DON’T KNOW~& haven’t been ablt 2 figure it out for 60 years!


  2. mm172001, I do agree, it is pricey. I am a suicide attempt survivor beginning to write about my experience with psychache. Although it has now been more than four years since experiencing this psychological disorder, if you will, the memory is still very fresh. I am so thankful to be able to share this first hand knowledge in hopes of helping others to see, there is hope.


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