A new Danish study has found that repeat suicide attempts and deaths by suicide fell by a fourth in people who had a certain type of short-term “psychosocial therapy.”
Called “talk therapy-focused suicide prevention,” the therapy is unique in showing that it is effective as suicide prevention is effective, actually preventing further suicide attempts in this group of people. Additionally, the therapy was only six to 10 sessions long, yet the benefits were found to last for five years or longer.
“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, an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Mental Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in a news release. “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.”
Psychosocial therapy – also sometimes called “talk therapy” — helps people with mental disorders understand their illness, and teaches them ways to deal with stress and negative thoughts and behaviors. It is done by a therapist to help people manage their symptoms and function better.
The therapy involves having a “safe,confidential, place to talk,” according to the researchers, and it “depends on the individual needs of the patient.”
The researchers analyzed health data from more than 65,000 people who attempted suicide between 1992 and 2010. They then looked at 5,678 people who received the psychosocial therapy at one of eight suicide prevention clinics.
The outcomes over time were compared with 17,304 people who had attempted suicide but who had not had treatment afterward. The researchers followed those participants for up to 20 years.
In that analysis, during the first year participants who received therapy were 27 percent less likely to reattempt suicide and 38 percent less likely to die of other causes. After five years, there were 26 percent fewer suicides in the group that had been treated following their attempt.
After 10 years, the suicide rate who participants who had undergone the therapy was 229 per 100,000; in the group that didn’t get treatment, the suicide rate was 314 per 100,000.
“Our findings provide a solid basis for recommending that this type of therapy be considered for populations at risk for suicide,” Erlandsen says.