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Treatment for suicide can be effective because 90% of individuals who died by committing suicide have a psychological condition, usually depression.  Among the best ways to help prevent suicide is by understanding the associated psychiatric disorders and treating them immediately.

Two specific types of psychotherapies proven to be effective with people seeking treatment for suicide who attempt or will attempt suicide: Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) for suicide attempters and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) for those with recurrent suicidal behaviors and a preoccupation with suicidal thoughts. Clearly, even if only short-term, theses treatment for suicide can help save lives.

One goal to improve suicide prevention is by adapting these evidence-based treatments for suicide to community treatment settings. Many treatment studies, including short-term psychotherapy, reveal that treatment for suicide reduces suicide related thoughts and behavior with these treatments.

Treatment for Suicide and Major Depression

Numerous studies have shown that teaching health care providers to identify depression and help treat it is one effective means to lower suicide rates.   Treatment for suicide attempts or behaviors usually occurs with chronic or major depression.

If the patient’s depression is only mild, suicide risk is likely to be low and psychotherapy alone, or medication alone may be sufficient.

Treatment for Suicide with Psychotherapy

Certain types of psychotherapies have also been proven effective in the treatment for suicide and depression. These psychotherapies are usually short-term procedures lasting from 12 to 16 weeks. The sessions may be scheduled 1 to 2 times a week with a trained mental health professional.

The most common types of evidence based psychotherapy for treating depression are Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Cognitive Behavioral Analysis System of Psychotherapy (CBASP), Interpersonal Therapy (IPT), and Behavioral Activation (BH) therapy.  Scientific studies show that combining psychotherapy with antidepressants may provide the best results for the treatment for suicide associated with chronic depression or major depression.

Treatment for Suicide With Medications

Several medications are available for the treatment for suicide associated with depression. About 22 different kinds of medications for depression are approved at the current moment by the FDA. The most common types are called antidepressants. Since no definitive test matching a person’s symptoms and concerns with a specific antidepressant, there is also no absolute way to know which of these medications will work best for a specific individual.

A person experiencing depression and seeking treatment for suicide should discuss with their prescribing physician their choice of medication, how exactly to take it, and what the medicine’s potential side effects are.  At times, different medications may be tried before finding which ones give the best results while producing minimal side effects. Alcohol intake should be avoided while feeling suicidal and while taking any antidepressant drug or psychotropic medication.

If the patient is not feeling any better or doesn’t show much improvement even after 8-12 weeks of being on medication, then the doctor will likely refer the patient for psychotherapy and add a second type of antidepressant (or other drugs), or switch to an entirely different antidepressant.

Treatment for Suicide When Alcohol and Drug Abuse are Present

In combination with depression, bipolar disorder or other mental disorders, alcohol and/or drug abuse can also further increase the risk of committing suicide and hence the need of treatment for suicide and the substance abuse disorder.   The use of alcohol and drugs in the context of another psychological condition, like depression, is referred to as a co-occurring disorder, or dual diagnosis disorder.  Because alcohol and drug use significantly increases the risk for suicide in people who are depressed, it is imperative that these alcohol and drug problems be properly treated.  When undergoing alcohol and/or drug abuse treatment, it is necessary for the patient to be 100 percent honest about his/her current alcohol or drug intake so as to get the safest form of treatment and also the best chances to improve their depression and co-occurring substance abuse disorder.

Treatment for Suicide and Bipolar Disorder

Another suicide high risk group are those patients diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is characterized by episodes of depression and very high (manic) mood swings, that may include periods of normal-feeling in between.

People with bipolar disorder are at a greatest risk to commit suicide when they are in a depressive state or having a mixed mood state with depressive features.  For this reason, the treatment for suicide and depression methods mentioned above may also apply with these patients.  Additionally, to treat bipolar disorder, a physician might prescribe a mood stabilizer (e.g. lithium), antipsychotic medication, or mood stabilizing anticonvulsants. 

Treatment for Suicide With Electroconvulsive Therapy

If the treatment for suicide and related depression isn’t effective, or in case of severe depression or the emergence of psychotic symptoms also appearing as part of the illness, additional treatments such as Electroconvulsive Therapy may also be used. Electroconvulsive Therapy is a medical procedure that requires the use of anesthesia and delivery of small electric currents to the patient’s brain.  It is usually provided within a hospital setting.

A similar treatment to Electroconvulsive Therapy is Transmagnetic Simulation (TMS). This is a newer form of treatment, with fewer side effects than ECT.   At this time it is considered experimental and is not covered by most commercial insurance carriers.  Finally, for people suffering from Seasonal Mood Disorder (SAD), doctors may recommend Light Therapy along with additional treatment for suicide methods.

Intensive Outpatient Program 

It is essential to keep in mind that intensive outpatient treatment for suicide and depression can be effective. There are various successful types of effective treatment available. Psychotherapy and medication are useful for the treatment of suicide and depression. However, the treatment type that is suitable for you will rely on your personal preference, situational factors, history and severity of symptoms. However, if you have tried these methods and failed, or if your depression has reached severe levels, you likely need a higher level of care for the treatment of suicide and depression.  Because our intensive outpatient treatment for suicide and depression relies on evidence based practices, our Intensive Outpatient Program shares many common methods with other successful treatment methods.  The foundation of our treatment program for relies on the principles of the stages of change, cognitive behavioral therapy, solution focused treatment, skills training and identifying repetitive dysfunctional behavioral relationship patterns to promote recovery from depression and other mental health disorders.  In fact, our Intensive Outpatient Program in Memphis, TN that has been proven to be effective in the treatment of these disorders in six peer reviewed treatment outcome studies.   Our treatment center provides services to those who need more treatment than one hour a week, but less than 24 hour care, by providing three hours of treatment per day, three to five days per week, in an intensive outpatient setting.  If you or a loved one is showing signs of suicide, depression or anxiety, they should be assessed by a trained mental health professional who can help design a treatment plan for suicide and depression that can result in recovery.  Treatment for suicide, depression and anxiety can be highly successful.  Call us at 901-682-6136 to schedule an appointment.