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The participants in the study volunteered to have six to 10 talking therapy sessions at suicide prevention clinics in Denmark.
Our findings provide a solid basis for recommending that this type of therapy be considered for populations at risk for suicide.
Dr Elizabeth Stuart, Johns Hopkins University
Their outcomes were compared with around 17,000 people who had attempted suicide but had not gone for treatment afterwards.
Participants were then followed up for up to 20 years.
The aim of this therapy is to give people time and space to talk about their troubles and explore difficult feelings with a trained professional.
During the first year, those who received therapy were 27% less likely to attempt suicide again. They were also 38% less likely to die of any cause.
After five years, this same group saw 26% fewer suicides. Ten years later, the positive effects of the therapy were still evident.
Dr Elizabeth Stuart, study co-author and associate professor in the Bloomberg School's department of mental health, said the long-term follow-up was ideal for gathering information on which suicide prevention treatments worked.
"Our findings provide a solid basis for recommending that this type of therapy be considered for populations at risk for suicide," she said.
Her colleague Annette Erlangsen, also from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said: "We know that people who have attempted suicide are a high-risk population and that we need to help them. However, we did not know what would be effective in terms of treatment.
"Now we have evidence that psychosocial treatment - which provides support, not medication - is able to prevent suicide in a group at high risk of dying by suicide."
They said it was likely that providing a safe, confidential place to talk was the key to the success of the therapy sessions.
But the researchers say they plan to gather more data on which specific types of therapy work best.
Professor Green: Suicide and me airs on BBC3 at 9pm on Tuesday 27 October 2015.
The British rapper’s BBC3 documentary explores his father’s death and discusses how men need to talk about their feelings to reduce the high rate of suicide[Professor Green: Suicide and Me BBC3 documentary
Professor Green, AKA Stephen Manderson on his father’s death. ‘The documentary was actually the first time me and my grandmother talked about it.’
In front of me is a tall, muscular, tattooed man with a large scar on his jaw. He’s the British rapper, Professor Green – real name Stephen Manderson – and despite the tough guy image that goes along with his job, he has tears in his eyes and his voice is breaking. Manderson is discussing a subject that’s been called a silent epidemic. It kills more men under 45 than anything else and yet it’s something many of us feel uncomfortable talking about. It’s male suicide and Manderson knows more about it than most. Seven years ago, Manderson’s estranged father took his life, despite showing no previous signs that he was suffering.
Suicide and silence: why depressed men are dying for somebody to talk to
In a heartbreaking documentary for BBC3, Manderson, who was raised by his grandmother in the London borough of Hackney, let the cameras in as he delved into his father’s past in an attempt to work out what led him, like so many others, to suicide. A common thread in his research is how many relatives and friends of men who have taken their own lives did not see it coming. Despite the devastating impact this has on the people left behind, families often brush suicide under the carpet. “The documentary was actually the first time me and my grandmother talked about it,” says Manderson. “It is difficult. It’s not something even family like to talk about. It’s really hard.”
It’s particularly difficult for Manderson. Just months before his father died, they were due to reconcile, but a phone conversation to make arrangements ended in an argument. His last words to his father were, “If I ever see you again, I’ll knock you out.” It’s a conversation he deeply regrets and since losing his father, Manderson has seen a therapist on a regular basis to deal with depression. He thinks more men should follow suit and look after themselves. Although suicide affects both genders, it is more common among men and the ratio of male to female suicide has shown a sustained rise over the last 30 years, according to mental health charity, Calm. In 1981, men accounted for 62% of suicides in the UK. By 2013, the figure was 78%. Suicide now accounts for nearly 5,000 male deaths a year, around three times that of suicide in women. Yet other big killers such as cancer and heart disease get far more attention.
“At the end of the day suicide is a violent end. It’s the taking of a life,” says Manderson. “It’s violent, irrespective of the method, so it’s hard to talk about and it’s scary. Shying away from it is not going to do any good, though.”FacebookTwitterPinterest
Stephen Manderson as a child with his father, Peter Photograph: BBC/Antidote Productions
Rory O’Connor, the professor who leads the suicidal behaviour research laboratory at Glasgow University, says the causes of male suicide are deep-rooted. “The bottom line is, we as men, are not socialised to seek help. We are traditionally the breadwinner, we’re the rock for our family.” As these traditional male roles have become more blurred over the past two decades, men are struggling to deal with that. “Currently services, arguably, are not set up for men to access them. Much better research needs to be done about why men clam up more and we need to go beyond the traditional cliches.”
Why are men more likely than women to take their own lives?Daniel Freeman and Jason Freeman
Jane Powell, chief executive of Calm, hopes the documentary will kick-start a wider debate on men’s mental health.
“I think it’s a brilliant film but I would badly like it to be the start of a discussion about how life is for men. We have to give permission for men to say, ‘I don’t know how to go on’, and that not being a criticism of their gender because at the moment it is. For a guy to say ‘I can’t cope’ is to say ‘I’m not a man’ and I think that’s why it’s taken decades for the Department of Health and the media to tackle this.” Manderson challenges that stereotype, she adds. “[He] comes across as being so tough. When guys do tackle things like that, they don’t come across as being weak at all.”
Have any of Manderson’s fans been in contact since the publicity for the documentary started? Manderson’s voice shakes as he responds: “Yesterday, someone told me I had saved his life.”
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Suicide risk reduced after talk therapy, study suggests
24 November 2014
Talking therapy gives people time and space to explore their feelings
Talk therapy sessions can help reduce the risk of suicide among high-risk groups, suggests a US study.
Researchers from John Hopkins University tracked more than 5,000 Danish people who had attempted suicide and later received psychosocial counselling.
They found suicides went down by 26% after five years, compared to people who had no therapy sessions.
The findings are published in Lancet Psychiatry.