Deliberate self poisoning is one of the commonest reasons for admission to hospital in the United Kingdom, but there are no effective treatments available. However, a study in this week's BMJ finds that psychotherapy may be a valuable treatment for these patients. This finding could be a first step towards improving the management of suicidal behaviour.
Over 100 adults who attended a hospital emergency department after deliberately poisoning themselves were included in the study. Patients were randomly allocated to two groups. The intervention group received four sessions of psychological therapy at their home. The control group received routine care, which in most cases consisted of referral back to their general practitioner.
After six months, patients receiving therapy had less suicidal thoughts compared with those receiving routine care. They were also more satisfied with their treatment and were less likely to report repeated attempts to harm themselves.
These results are promising, but larger studies in different locations are needed to establish the potential costs and benefits of such treatments for patients who poison themselves, conclude the authors.
Elspeth Guthrie, Senior Lecturer in Liaison Psychiatry, University of Manchester, Manchester Royal Infirmary, Manchester, UK
Randomised controlled trial of brief psychological intervention after deliberate self poisoning BMJ Volume 323, pp 135-137 Commentary: Another kind of talk that works? BMJ Volume 323, pp 138