ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy) was found to decrease suicide risk by 84% in high-risk bipolar patients, revealed a study published in The World Journal of Biological Psychiatry.
ECT was invented in Italy, but there are few clinics which offer treatment nowadays. Six hundred seventy patients were referred to the University of Pisa psychiatry clinic for ECT treatment for bipolar disorder between January 2006 and July 2019.
ECT for Bipolar Disorder
- Participants selected for the group had tried five different drugs for their bipolar condition without success.
- 77 of the patients in the study were classified as being at severe suicide risk.
- After treatment with ECT, only two patients remained at severe suicide risk.
- 65 showed no suicide risk at all.
- ECT was found to be promising in treating bipolar sufferers with remission rates of over 60% for symptoms characteristic of bipolar "mixed states".
Modern ECT is given under general anesthetic and helps treat major depression. Given 2 to 3 times per week, with between 6 and 16 treatments needed to show a positive effect.
"ECT is used for major depression, but much less so for the other phases of Bipolar Disorder, especially for so-called mixed states, which have lower visibility. We find that many patients with treatment-resistant bipolar catatonic and mixed states are misdiagnosed as having schizophrenia. These patients need to be given a chance via receiving the right treatment," said Giulio Brancati.
Despite the long-term evidence, ECT is still viewed as a controversial treatment by the general public and the media. Commenting, Dr Henricus Ruhe, psychiatrist at Radboudumc Netherlands, and Chair of the ECNP Abstract and Poster Committee, said: "This is also the case in Italy where very few centres can offer ECT nowadays.This prejudice against modern ECT unjustly stigmatizes both patients and psychiatry, and denies treatment to seriously-ill patients".
What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder in which people show "mood swings". Changes in the level of neurotransmitters in brain and psychosocial factors are thought to be involved. It affects around 1% of Europeans, meaning that approximately 5 million Europeans suffer. The disorder causes mixed states of mania and depression, leading to increased suicide risk.
Means to Prevent the Burden of Suicide
Suicides are a preventable cause of death, which can be catered to with effective measures at the population, sub-population, and individual levels. Few measures include:
- Restricting access to means of suicides like pesticides, medications, or firearms
- Interventions at school, work, and homes
- Identifying and addressing mental disorders like depression, bipolar disorder
- Addressing alcohol and substance abuse
- Removing stigma against mental health and suicide
- Follow-up care and counseling for people who have attempted suicide