A Mental Health Treatment Program to Reduce Suicide Attempts

What’s New in Psychology?

A Mental Health Treatment Program to Reduce Suicide Attempts     

Jim Windell


           The number of suicides in the United States has been increasing for decades. By 2021, suicide was the 11th leading cause of death in this country. However, suicide is the second leading cause of death in people ages 10 to 34 and the fifth leading cause of death in those between 35 and 54. In 2021, suicide rates increased by five percent with more than 48 thousand lives lost. All of this comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

           For those in a mental health crisis, prompt and specialized care can be a matter of life and death. However, according to the Commonwealth Fund, there is a national shortage of mental health professionals.

           Given that suicide rates are going up and the number of mental health providers is decreasing, how can those in the mental health field cope with people who are at risk of taking their own life?

           The Suicide and Trauma Reduction Initiative for Veterans (STRIVE) at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center may have an answer.

           STRIVE has designed a program to meet this growing need. The program they offer is the first research program focused specifically on suicide prevention.

           In a report published in Newswise, the program was originally developed to reduce suicide rates among service members, but this innovative approach to mental health treatment is now making an impact for anyone suffering with PTSD or suicidal thoughts.

           According to AnnaBelle Bryan, director of STRIVE and clinical research manager in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at The Ohio State University College of Medicine, “The goal is to remove any barriers when someone needs urgent help. The program has worked incredibly well among veterans, and by making a few tweaks, we’re now able to apply those principles to all groups and help save lives.”

           The intensive treatment program typically lasts just two weeks, with daily weekday therapy sessions that challenge patients’ perceptions of themselves. The program helps them develop personalized crisis plans and coping skills that they can use to prevent a downward spiral during times of emotional distress. “If they can continue using those skills, it can help them maneuver through whatever life has to throw at them,” Bryan says. “The most important thing is that we’re able to connect with those who are at risk of suicide so we can provide these resources and prevent a tragedy.”

           Bryan says that patients learn how to control themselves avoid a crisis. “They can do these little things like walking, or calling someone or just reengaging their brain on something else so that they can get themselves out of the spiral. And that actually provides them more control,” she says.

           To help make as many connections as possible, the program is expanding to offer telehealth options to ensure those in crisis receive timely and effective therapy wherever they are. While clinicians with the STRIVE program follow up with patients, there’s usually not a need for ongoing mental health treatment after the two-week program. This not only serves patients well for the rest of their lives but allows psychologists to have the time and resources to treat more patients and save more lives.

           To learn more about the STRIVE program, go to its website at https://medicine.osu.edu/departments/psychiatry-and-behavioral-health/strive



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