Less Risk to Suicidal Girls Who Pick Support Team. (Simple Intervention)

Article excerpt

HONOLULU -- Support teams which are nominated by suicidal adolescents helped to decrease suicidal ideation, internalizing behavior problems, and functional impairment among 179 adolescents who participated in a randomized, controlled trial, Cheryl A. King, Ph.D., said at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

The 6-month intervention helped females overall and some individual males but not males overall, she said.

All of the youths had been hospitalized following suicide attempts or suicidal ideation. According to Dr. King, the support teams were designed as an adjunct to usual care following hospitalization, with 92 subjects randomized to usual care only and 87 subjects to usual care plus a "youth-nominated support team."

The mean age in both groups was 15 years, with a range of 13-17 years. A majority of patients were Caucasian and two-thirds were female.

Investigators contacted people nominated by the suicidal youths as potential support team members, 83% of whom agreed to participate. Of these, 97% attended a required psychoeducational session to learn about the suicidal adolescent's psychiatric disorder(s), the treatment plan, the importance of treatment adherence, signs of increased suicide risk, how to communicate with adolescents, and the availability of professional resources and emergency services.

For most of the suicidal adolescents (88%), two or more people who were nominated agreed to participate and attend the psychoeducational session, Dr. King explained. The psychiatric staff then tried to contact support team members--not the suicidal teens--by phone weekly to answer any questions or provide information. Support team members kept in touch with the patients.

Female patients showed improved scores on the Suicidal Ideation Questionnaire, the Youth Self-Report, the Child and Adolescent Functional Assessment Scale, and other measures at the end of the 6-month study, said Dr. King of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Further follow-up is needed to determine if the intervention might reduce not just suicidal ideation but suicide attempts, she added. …