Close contact with young people at risk of suicide has no effect

August 22, 2012

Researchers, doctors and patients tend to agree that during the high-risk period after an attempted suicide, the treatment of choice is close contact, follow-up and personal interaction in order to prevent a tragic repeat. Now, however, new research shows that this strategy does not work. These surprising results from Mental Health Services in the Capital Region of Denmark and the University of Copenhagen have just been published in the British Medical Journal.

Researchers from Mental Health Services in the Capital Region of and the University of Copenhagen have just concluded a large study on the effect of an assertive outreach and intervention programme for young people after an attempted suicide. The surprising conclusion is that increased attention and support for the patient do not have a significant effect.

– Our results show that there is no difference between receiving standard treatment after an attempted suicide, or receiving assertive outreach intervention in addition, explains Britt Morthorst, research assistant, Psychiatric Centre Copenhagen and the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, who led the study.

The study was conducted at the Research Unit of Psychiatric Centre Copenhagen from 2007 to 2010. A total of 243 patients who had recently attempted suicide participated in the study; 123 in the additional intervention group and 120 in the control group. In the study, the frequency of repeated attempt was 17% for both groups. This figure can also be found in the international literature on this topic, and describes the risk factor entailed by a prior suicide attempt.

Standard treatment just as good

Standard treatment after an attempted suicide is usually provided by the patient's own general practitioner or a psychologist, and is adapted to the patient's physical and mental health. Generally it is up to the patient to seek help and initiate a course of treatment. In the study reported here, standard treatment was supplemented by treatment at the Competence Centre for Suicide Prevention under the auspices of in the Capital Region of Denmark.

Under the additional intervention programme, specially-trained nurses visited patients a few days after their discharge from hospital and maintained especially close contact with them for up to six months, with between eight and 20 out-reach consultations in addition to standard treatment. Contact covered meetings with patients in the patient's home, and also included accompanying to ' appointments and meetings with social services. The option of telephone and texting contact was also part of the package.

Greater focus on danger signals prior to first suicide attempt

However, close contact is not what it takes to stop the negative spiral involved in repeated suicide attempts. At the end of the study, researchers were forced to conclude that in the year after treatment, there were as many attempted suicides in the group that had received additional intervention as in the control group that received standard treatment. Thus there is no difference to be found in either hospital registers or in the data gathered from self-reporting by participants in the study:

Unfortunately, the must be that neither standard treatment nor additional assertive outreach is good enough. My suggestion is that we try to get hold of young people at risk before they attempt suicide the first time. We are looking with interest at some American Teen-Screen programmes, which look at 's generally, to see if we can identify any danger signals to which we could respond earlier, explains Britt Morthorst.

Explore further: Better NHS services reduce suicide rates

More information: Read the article in British Medical Journal: www.bmj.com/highwire/filestream/599203/field_highwire_article_pdf/0.pdf?bcsi_scan_454e4c1bfe3a6284=eKxTMzigoVP1xe1s09tM71xjozcNAAAA35GHDA==&bcsi_scan_filename=0.pdf

Related Stories

Better NHS services reduce suicide rates

February 1, 2012

Researchers at The University of Manchester have for the first time shown a positive link between improvements in mental health services and a reduction in suicide rates.

Study shows promise for teen suicide prevention

November 2, 2011

Roughly one million people die by suicide each year. In the U.S., where nearly 36,000 people take their own lives annually, more than 4,600 victims are between the ages of 10 and 24, making suicide the third leading cause ...

Recommended for you

Study reveals areas of the brain impacted by PTSD

January 23, 2017

Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and the VA Boston Healthcare System are one step closer to understanding the specific nature of brain changes associated with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Where belief in free will is linked to happiness

January 23, 2017

Western and Asian cultures tend to have different core beliefs around free will. In a recent study published in Frontiers in Psychology, Jingguang Li, professor at Dali University, and his research team show the link between ...

For health and happiness, share good news

January 22, 2017

Service members, including both active and recently separated, have been called upon to fight overseas and to assist during natural disasters at home. They can face unique challenges when they return in both the workplace ...

The great unknown—risk-taking behaviour in adolescents

January 19, 2017

Adolescents are more likely to ignore information that could prompt them to rethink risky decisions. This may explain why information campaigns on risky behaviors such as drug abuse tend to have only limited success. These ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.