Individuals who attempt suicide once are likely to attempt it again. The rate of repeat attempts is highest in the first 6 months after the initial attempt, but the risk continues unless the root of the psychological stress is addressed. People attempt suicide because they often see it as the only way to cope with overwhelming emotional pain or trauma. They may not be able to see any other solution to their problem and can feel trapped in a state of hopelessness. This fundamental lack of problem-solving skills is not uncommon in individuals with a history of suicide attempts. In fact, existing research suggests that individuals with a history of suicide attempts are less able to solve interpersonal problems than those with no prior suicidal history. Based on this evidence, researchers have begun using cognitive therapy to address the problem-solving aspect that could be serving as a catalyst for suicide in people who are cognitively unable to develop any other solution to their situations. And although the clinical arena has implemented this life-saving approach, few researchers have looked at how effective it is long-term.
In an effort to gauge the efficacy of cognitive therapy designed to address problem-solving skills in suicidal clients, Marjan Ghahramanlou-Holloway of the Department of Medical and Clinical Psychology at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland, recently led a study that assessed outcomes in 120 participants, half of whom were enrolled in a control condition. Ghahramanlou-Holloway evaluated the participants before the therapy and again 6 months after completion. She found that the therapy participants had significantly lower levels of negative perceptions and formulated more constructive solutions than the control participants. “More specifically, individuals receiving cognitive therapy were significantly less likely to report a negative view toward life problems and impulsive/carelessness problem-solving style,” said Ghahramanlou-Holloway. She noted that these findings underscore the importance of addressing problem-solving skills in clients immediately after a suicide attempt to provide them with the necessary tools to protect them from a repeated attempt when they are most vulnerable.
Ghahramanlou-Holloway, M., Bhar, S. S., Brown, G. K., Olsen, C., Beck, A. T. (2012). Changes in problem-solving appraisal after cognitive therapy for the prevention of suicide. Psychological Medicine, 42.6, 1185-1193.
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