Problem-solving therapy could prove effective in preventing suicides, say New Zealand researchers. They reached the conclusion at the end of the world's largest trial to assess the efficacy of the therapy on those who attempt suicide and are hospitalized.
The findings of the study at the University of Auckland have been published in the British Journal of Psychiatry this month.
The therapy involves patients having about five one-hour sessions of face-to-face talking therapy that teaches them a structured way to identify and solve problems in their lives.
Findings showed that all patients who received problem-solving therapy were less hopeless, less depressed and had fewer suicidal thoughts than those who did not receive the treatment or received the usual care.
Usual care involves referral to mental health professionals and recommendations for joining drug and alcohol treatment centres, among other options.
The controlled trial, funded by ACC, looked at 1094 randomly selected people who appeared in emergency departments between September 2005 and June 2008 at four district health boards (DHBs) in New Zealand.
Although the therapy did not lead to lower rates of repeat self-harm for all people, the risk of appearing in hospital again over the next year was significantly lowered for those who had a history of attempted suicide or self harm (around 40% of the group).
"Self-harm is common and those admitted to hospital because of this are an easily identifiable high-risk group, so there is an important opportunity for intervention, particularly in relation to suicide prevention," lead investigator, Associate Professor Dr Simon Hatcher, said.
He said the findings offer hope for people who repeated self-harm that something can be done to help them.
"It shows that the burden of this problem on hospital emergency departments can be reduced and potentially it could help reduce New Zealand's suicide rate."
The team at The University of Auckland is currently investigating whether other factors in conjunction with therapy, such as receiving regular postcards, would further improve patients' wellbeing.