Possible Benefits of Psychological Intervention for Suicidal Ideation


Does psychological intervention in treating depression indirectly influence suicide-related outcomes? Published in The Lancet Psychiatry, the paper Assessment of suicidality in trials of psychological interventions for depression: a meta-analysis includes the work of Prof Ioana Alina Cristea and Prof Claudio Gentili of the Department of General Psychology at the University of Padua. 

The international research team used a publicly available meta-analytic database to identify randomized controlled trials in which a psychological intervention for depression were compared with inactive control conditions in adults with depression who had reported suicide-related outcomes. Researchers examined 469 trials by establishing if participants with high suicidal risks were included and whether suicidal behavior and thoughts were assessed as an adverse outcome or event. - An adverse event is any unpleasant clinical phenomenon that occurs during treatment, but which does not necessarily have a causal or relational relationship with the treatment itself.

The findings suggest that, despite the well-established relationship between depression and possible suicidal behaviors, trials of psychological interventions for depression rarely report assessments of suicide. In fact, in more than half of the studies of psychological interventions identified for depression, people at high risk of suicide were excluded from participation.

Corresponding author, Prof Ioana Alina Cristea of the Department of General Psychology at the University of Padua explains, ”Our study highlights a lack of consideration for suicidal thoughts and behaviors in research on psychotherapy for depression. Evidence indicates that suicidal thoughts and behaviors may emerge during studies of psychological therapies in individuals with depression, even for those not at risk. This clearly indicates the need to improve the monitoring and reporting of suicidal thoughts and behaviors including the implementation of pre-defined and detailed safety protocols for all psychotherapy studies. Furthermore, the positive effect, albeit minimum, of psychological intervention on suicidal ideation represents a potential tool to in large randomized studies.”