Talking Helps Lower Suicide Risk

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collect data about mortality in the U.S., including deaths by suicide. In 2012 (the most recent year for which full data is available), 40,600 suicide deaths were reported by Emergency Departments, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death for Americans. Sadly, many of these deaths were possibly preventable, just by talking.

According to research, even short-term psychotherapy, a type of talk therapy using specific techniques, can offer long-term benefits for those at higher risk of suicide. Considering people who have attempted suicide once are significantly more likely to contemplate it again, talk therapy offers a lot of promise for those who have considered suicide.

For up to two decades, the study followed people who had attempted suicide. Researchers found the risk of future suicide declined by more than 25% if the study participants received just six to ten sessions of psychotherapy. Results found a lower risk of repeated deliberate self-harm and general mortality in recipients of therapy after short-term and long-term follow-up. In addition, a protective effect for suicide prevention after long-term follow-up was also found.

Study author Annette Erlangsen, an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Mental Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health stated:

“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 use of psychosocial therapy intervention after deliberate self-harm should be strongly recommended.

Approximately 12 people harm themselves (not necessarily intending to take their lives) for every reported death by suicide. Together, those harming themselves made what is estimated at over 650,000 hospital visits related to injuries sustained in one or more separate incidents of self-harm behavior. Survey data suggest that at least one million people in the U.S. each year engage in intentionally inflicted self-harm.

Talk therapy has accumulated more and more evidence that it can address serious mental health issues as effectively as medication, and in some cases more so. Discuss suicidal thoughts or feelings with a personal health care professional for more advice or information on how to get help for yourself or someone you love.



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