Participation in peer-led therapy groups can help at-risk patients become less vulnerable for suicide according to new research to be presented at the American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting in Honolulu.
Suicide risk assessment has become increasingly refined and utilized in public and private medical and psychiatric facilities across the nation including within the military where high suicide rates have been reported among recently returning military and older veterans.
The research examined whether identifying and reinforcing a primary care patient’s suicide protective factors, such as responsibilities toward children and family, optimism, hope, and positive coping skills, spiritual, moral, and religious factors, and social supports, may help lessen the impact of crises and depression and reduce the risk for suicide.
The study involved screening primary care patients at Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers for suicide risk using the Patient Health Questionnaire-2. Patients identified as at-risk were invited to a 4-week peer-led therapy group aimed at providing social support and educating patients on the importance of these protective factors and ways to integrate the factors more fully into their lives and ongoing awareness.
Data collected thus far, author Shabnam Balai, M.D., reports, are encouraging and show that by participating in a low-intensive, peer-led therapy group, primary care patients can become less vulnerable for suicide.
The research was presented at the APA Annual Meeting in Honolulu. The meeting was May 14-18, 2010.