Repeat suicide attempts and deaths by suicide were roughly 25 percent lower among a group of Danish people who underwent voluntary short-term psychosocial counseling after a suicide attempt, new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health-led research suggests.
The findings are believed to be the first to show that talk therapy-focused suicide prevention actually works, averting future suicide attempts in this very high-risk population. Although just six-to-10 talk therapy sessions were provided, researchers found long-term benefits: Five years after the counseling ended, there were 26 percent fewer suicides in the group that received treatment as compared to a group that did not.
A study on the findings is published online November 24 in Lancet Psychiatry.
“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, Dr. Annette Erlangsen, an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Mental Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “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.”
The researchers say their findings suggest that it might be valuable to broadly implement therapy programs for people who have attempted suicide in the past. In Denmark, which has free health care for its citizens, the first suicide prevention clinics were opened in 1992 for people at risk of suicide but not in need of psychiatric hospitalization. The clinics were opened nationwide in 2007.