The phrase ‘talk to someone’ ranks near the top of what depressed people don’t want to hear. That said, benefits of talk therapy are astounding, according to the latest study out of Johns Hopkins. Using a five-year guidepost, short-term counseling, or talk therapy, resulted in a 26% reduction in suicide rates.

A reduction is significant due to suicide being a top 10 cause of death in the United States. Over one million Americans try to take their lives each year. Simple math shows a quarter of those could be prevented.

Lead researcher, Annette Erlangsen of the Department of Mental Health at Johns Hopkins, pointed out that people that have attempted suicide but failed are at an especially high risk.

“We know that people who have attempted suicide are a high-risk population and that we need to help them,” says Erlangsen. “However, we did not know what would be effective in terms of treatment.”

People that attempt suicide have a prevalence of various mental disorders – ranging from depression to schizophrenia. This study, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, focused of the psychosocial counselling patients receive after they attempted suicide.

Using data already available, the team at Hopkins monitored patients in Denmark from January 1992 to the end of December 2010. 5,678 people were followed after they had undergone the initial counseling sessions following an attempt. The control were patients that did not undergo talk therapy.

At the five-year mark, repeat suicides were 26% lower than the non-therapy group. At the 10-year milestone, suicide rates stood at 229 per 100,000 for the therapy group, and 314 per 100,000 for the non-therapy group.

Erlangsen commented on the findings. “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.”

“Our findings provide a solid basis for recommending that this type of therapy be considered for populations at risk for suicide.”

Researchers weren’t able to point to a specific point in talk therapy that changed outcomes in talk therapy. The sessions are tailored to the individual, but research is planned to investigate the pros and cons of various talk therapy methods.

If you feel like hurting yourself, or know someone is in trouble, please get in touch with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.


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