Treating suicidal ideation in the context of depression

BMC Psychiatry. 2020 Oct 8;20(1):497. doi: 10.1186/s12888-020-02894-5.


Background: Treatment recommendations suggest that suicidal ideation will decrease following successful psychotherapy for depression. However, findings from the empirical research are equivocal in this regard. It is possible suicidal ideation does not respond to empirically supported treatment (EST) for depression or that suicidal ideation limits the efficacy of ESTs for depression.

Methods: Data from 793 patients who sought EST for depression was analyzed using t-tests and multiple linear regression.

Results: Both patients with (n = 233) or without suicidal ideation (n = 560) were significantly less depressed following treatment. A significant reduction in suicidal ideation was also observed. At baseline, 233 (29.4%) patients reported suicidal ideation, whereas only 90 (11.3%) patients reported suicidal ideation at follow-up. The relationship between suicidal ideation at baseline and depression scores at follow-up was not significant.

Conclusions: Patients with suicidal ideation who receive short-term EST can experience significant reductions in both depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation. Findings suggest that suicidal ideation at baseline does not impact treatment efficacy, but additional research that directly tests moderation is needed.

Keywords: Depression; Empirically-supported treatment; Suicidal ideation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Depression* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Psychotherapy
  • Suicidal Ideation*
  • Treatment Outcome