Background: Depression is a major risk factor for suicide. Given the strong association between depression and suicide, treatment for depression should be a fundamental component of suicide prevention. Currently it is not. This study aims to demonstrate the usefulness of internet-delivered cognitive behavioural therapy (iCBT) for depression as a means of reducing suicide ideation.
Methods: The sample comprised 484 patients who were prescribed iCBT for depression by their primary care physician. The outcomes of interest were major depression, as indexed by the PHQ-8, and suicidal ideation as measured by question 9 of the PHQ-9. Marginal models were used to appropriately analyse available data without biasing parameter estimates.
Results: Following iCBT for depression, suicidal ideation and depression decreased in parallel over time. The prevalence of suicidal ideation reduced from 50% at baseline to 27% after treatment, whilst the prevalence of major depression reduced from 70% to 30%. Depression scores and suicidal ideation decreased after treatment regardless of demographic or clinical variables of interest.
Limitations: This is a naturalistic study; randomisation and scientific control were not possible.
Conclusions: The current study demonstrates the usefulness of iCBT for depression as a means of reducing suicidal ideation which can be implemented on a large scale without enacting major structural change at the societal level. These findings need to be replicated in randomised controlled trials.
Keywords: Internet cognitive behavioural therapy; Major depression; Suicide.
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