Talking therapy can prevent people bent on suicide from stepping over the brink, a study has found.
Six to 10 counselling sessions reduced suicide deaths by more than a quarter in a group of Danish men and women who had already tried to kill themselves.
Five years after the course of treatment ended, there were 26% fewer suicides among those who had undergone therapy compared with those who had not.
Study leader Dr Annette Erlangsen, from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the US, said: “We know that people who have attempted suicide are a high-risk population and that we need to help them. However, we did not know what would be effective in terms of treatment.
“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.”
The researchers analysed Danish health data on more than 65,000 people who attempted suicide between January 1, 1992, and December 31, 2010.
Of that group, 5,678 individuals received psychosocial therapy at one of eight suicide prevention clinics in Denmark.
Their outcomes were compared with those of 17,304 people who had attempted suicide but not received therapy.
The findings are published online in the journal The Lancet Psychiatry.
The therapy itself varied depending on the individual needs of the patient, said the researchers.
It was not possible to point to an “active ingredient” that protected against suicide. However, all the treatments offered a “safe and confidential” place to talk.
Co-author Dr Elizabeth Stuart, also from Johns Hopkins University, said: “Our findings provide a solid basis for recommending that this type of therapy be considered for populations at risk for suicide.”