Talk therapy helping prevent repeat suicide attempts
The study, published in Lancet Psychiatry, looked at a group of Danish patients who voluntary participated in six to 10 talk therapy sessions after a suicide attempt. Researchers found that five years later there were 26 percent fewer suicides among the patients who participated in the therapy, as compared to a group that did not.
“We know that people who have attempted suicide are a high-risk population and that we need to help them. However, we did not know what would be effective in terms of treatment,” says the study’s leader, Annette Erlangsen, DPH, in a statement. “Now we have evidence that psychosocial treatment – which provides support, not medication – is able to prevent suicide in a group at high risk of dying by suicide.”
Researchers studied data from Danish suicide prevention clinics involving more than 65,000 people who attempted suicide between 1992 and 2010. They then looked at 5,678 people who received psychosocial therapy and compared their outcomes over time with 17,304 people who had attempted suicide but had not gone for treatment afterward. Participants were followed for up to 20 years.
“People who are thinking about suicide are usually in some type of physical or emotional pain, and don’t believe there is a way to stop that pain,” says Kevin Krippner, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist with Advocate Medical Group in Normal, IL. “Counseling helps people to acquire the tools needed to address the problems in their life.”
Prior to this study, determining the effectiveness of various types of treatment on suicidal individuals wasn’t possible, as medical ethics would prohibit conducting a study where a control group of suicidal subjects weren’t provided treatment. But the large amount of data available from the Danish clinics and the number of years it was studied have made it possible to draw strong conclusions, researchers say.
“Our findings provide a solid basis for recommending that this type of therapy be considered for populations at risk for suicide,” says study co-author Elizabeth A. Stuart, Ph.D.
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