Psychosocial intervention following suicide attempt: a systematic review of treatment interventions

Acta Psychiatr Scand. 1997 Jul;96(1):43-50. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0447.1997.tb09903.x.


Repeated suicide attempts are a common problem. However, few randomized controlled studies on the treatment of suicide attempters have been described. Although some of these studies showed beneficial effects on measures of well-being, none of them demonstrated lasting positive effects on repeated suicidal behaviour. In an attempt to analyse the results obtained, a systematic review of randomized controlled trials of interventions for suicide attempters is presented. The literature was gathered by means of a CD-ROM literature reference search (MEDLINE/PSYCLIT). Subsequently, information on study design and treatment efficacy was abstracted. Studies that were homogeneous with regard to therapeutic principles were reviewed accordingly, and pooled analyses were performed. Meta-analyses accounted for inter-study variance (random-effects model) to estimate a common-effect measure (relative risk). Systematic review of the data showed considerable differences in both study design and therapeutic protocols. In view of these differences, a single pooled analysis of all studies appeared to be unfeasible. A pooled analysis of studies that focus on psychiatric management of poor compliance showed no significant effect on the repetition of suicide attempts. Similarly, studies of psychosocial crisis intervention, as well as studies of guaranteed in-patient shelter in cases of emergency, did not show a significant reduction in repeated suicide attempts. However, the pooled results of four studies on cognitive-behavioural therapies showed a significant preventive effect on repeated suicide attempts. At present, only the cognitive-behavioural approach appears to have a beneficial effect on repeated suicide attempts. However, because of methodological variability, the results obtained may be too optimistic. Additional research is required to establish the merits of this type of intervention.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Case Management / standards*
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / standards*
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Crisis Intervention / standards*
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Models, Statistical
  • Psychiatry / methods
  • Psychiatry / standards*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Recurrence
  • Risk
  • Suicide, Attempted / prevention & control
  • Suicide, Attempted / psychology*
  • Treatment Outcome