Telemedicine Chapter 19: Telemedicine and Suicide Prevention
Arshad, U et al (2020) [Systematic Review] A Systematic Review of the Evidence Supporting Mobile-And Internet-Based Psychological Interventions For Self-Harm
Objectives: Internet- and mobile phone-based psychological interventions have the potential to overcome many of the barriers associated with accessing traditional face-to-face therapy. Self-injurious thoughts and behaviors (STB) are prevalent global health problems that may benefit from Internet- and mobile-based interventions. We provide a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies evaluating mobile- and Internet-based interventions for STB, including nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI). Methods: Online databases were searched up to March 2019 for single-arm and controlled trials of Internet- or mobile-based interventions for STB. The potential for bias was assessed using the Cochrane risk of bias tool. Results: Twenty-two eligible trials were identified. The research was limited by a lack of controlled designs and small samples. Evidence supports the acceptability of interventions. There is preliminary evidence that these interventions are associated with a decline in STB. A meta-analysis suggested a positive treatment effect on suicidal ideation when compared to treatment as usual, but not when trials with active controls were also considered. Conclusions: Overall, Internet- and mobile-based interventions show promise and further controlled trials are warranted, focusing on behavioral outcomes: NSSI; suicidal behavior.
Buscher, R et al (2020) [Systematic Review] Internet-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to Reduce Suicidal Ideation: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis
Importance: Suicidal ideation is a widespread phenomenon. However, many individuals at risk for suicide do not seek treatment, which might be addressed by providing low-threshold, Internet-based self-help interventions. Objective: To investigate whether Internet-based self-help interventions directly targeting suicidal ideation or behavior are associated with reductions in suicidal ideation. Data Sources: A systematic search of PsycINFO, MEDLINE, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), and the Centre for Research Excellence of Suicide Prevention (CRESP) databases for trials from inception to April 6, 2019, was performed, supplemented by reference searches. Search strings consisted of various search terms related to the concepts of Internet, suicide, and randomized clinical trials. Study Selection: Two independent researchers reviewed titles, abstracts, and full texts. Randomized clinical trials evaluating the effectiveness of Internet-based self-help interventions to reduce suicidal ideation were included. Interventions were eligible if they were based on psychotherapeutic elements. Trials had to report a quantitative measure of a suicide-specific outcome. Mobile-based and gatekeeper interventions were excluded; no further restrictions were placed on participant characteristics or date of publication. Data Extraction and Synthesis: This study followed the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses (PRISMA) reporting guidelines. Risk of bias was evaluated using the Cochrane Risk of Bias Tool. Standardized mean differences were calculated using a random-effects model. Main Outcomes and Measures: Suicidal ideation was the a priori primary outcome. Results: Six unique eligible trials (1567 unique participants; 1046 [66.8%] female; pooled mean [SD] age, 36.2 [12.5] years) were included in the systematic review and meta-analysis. All identified interventions were Internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy (iCBT). Participants assigned to the iCBT condition experienced a significantly reduced suicidal ideation compared with controls following intervention in all 6 trials (standardized mean difference, -0.29; 95% CI, -0.40 to -0.19; P < .001). Heterogeneity was low (I2 = 0%). The effect appeared to be maintained at follow-up in 4 trials (standardized mean difference, -0.18; 95% CI, -0.34 to -0.02; P = .03; I2 = 36%). Studies did not report sufficient data on completed suicides and suicide attempts to assess potential associations. Conclusions and Relevance: These results show that iCBT interventions are associated with significant reductions in suicidal ideation compared with control conditions. Considering their high scalability, iCBT interventions have the potential to reduce suicide mortality. Future research should assess the effect of these digital health interventions on suicidal behavior and identify moderators and mediators to advance understanding of the mechanisms of effectiveness of these interventions.
Melia, R et al (2020) [Systematic Review] Mobile Health Technology Interventions for Suicide Prevention: Systematic Review
Background: Digital interventions are proposed as one way by which effective treatments for self-harm and suicidal ideation may be improved and their scalability enhanced. Mobile devices offer a potentially powerful medium to deliver evidence-based interventions with greater specificity to the individual when the intervention is needed. The recent proliferation of publicly available mobile apps designed for suicide prevention underlines the need for robust evidence to promote safe practice. Objective: This review aimed to examine the effectiveness of currently available mobile health technology tools in reducing suicide-specific outcomes. Methods: The following databases were searched: Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, and relevant sources of gray literature. All published and unpublished randomized controlled trials, pseudo-RCTs, and pre-post observational studies that evaluated the effectiveness of mHealth technology in suicide prevention delivered via mobile computing and communication technology were included. Studies were included if they measured at least one suicide outcome variable: ie suicidal ideation, suicidal intent, nonsuicidal selfinjurious behavior, and suicidal behavior. A total of 2 review authors independently extracted data and assessed study suitability, in accordance with the Cochrane Collaboration Risk of Bias Tool, on July 31, 2018. Owing to the heterogeneity of outcomes found across studies, results were not amenable for pooled synthesis, and a meta-analysis was not performed. A narrative synthesis of the available research is presented here. Results: A total of 7 studies met criteria for inclusion . Four published articles that reported on the effectiveness of the following mobile phone apps were included: iBobbly, Virtual Hope Box, BlueIce, and Therapeutic Evaluative Conditioning. Results demonstrated some positive impacts for individuals at elevated risk of suicide or self-harm, including reductions in depression, psychological distress, and self-harm and increases in coping self-efficacy. None of the apps evaluated demonstrated the ability to significantly decrease suicidal ideation compared with a control condition. In addition, 3 unpublished and recently completed trials also met criteria for inclusion in the review. Conclusions: Further research is needed to evaluate the efficacy of standalone mHealth technology-based interventions in suicide prevention. The small number of studies reported in this review tentatively indicate that such tools may have a positive impact on suicide-specific outcomes. Future mHealth intervention evaluations would benefit from addressing the following 3 main methodological limitations : 1. heterogeneity of outcomes: a lack of standardized measurement of suicide outcomes across studies; 2. ecological validity: the tendency to exclude potential participants because of the elevated suicide risk may reduce generalizability within clinical settings; and 3. app regulation and definition: the lack of a standardized classification system for mHealth intervention type points to the need for better definition of the scope of such technologies to promote safe practice.
Berrouiguet, S et al (2017) [Systematic Review] Fundamentals for Future Mobile-Health (mHealth): A Systematic Review of Mobile Phone and Web-Based Text Messaging in Mental Health
Background: Mobile phone text messages are used pervasively as a form of communication. Almost 100% of the population uses text messaging worldwide and this technology is being suggested as a promising tool in psychiatry. Text messages can be sent either from a classic mobile phone or a web-based application. Reviews are needed to better understand how text messaging can be used in mental health care and other fields of medicine. Objective: The objective of the study was to review the literature regarding the use of mobile phone text messaging in mental health care. Methods: We conducted a thorough literature review of studies involving text messaging in health care management. Searches included PubMed, PsycINFO, Cochrane, Scopus, Embase and Web of Science databases on May 25, 2015. Studies reporting the use of text messaging as a tool in managing patients with mental health disorders were included. Given the heterogeneity of studies, this review was summarized using a descriptive approach. Results: From 677 initial citations, 36 studies were included in the review. Text messaging was used in a wide range of mental health situations, notably substance abuse (31%), schizophrenia (22%), and affective disorders (17%). We identified four ways in which text messages were used: reminders (14%), information (17%), supportive messages (42%), and self-monitoring procedures (42%). Applications were sometimes combined. Conclusions: We report growing interest in text messaging since 2006. Text messages have been proposed as a health care tool in a wide spectrum of psychiatric disorders including substance abuse, schizophrenia, affective disorders, and suicide prevention. Most papers described pilot studies, while some randomized clinical trials were also reported. Overall, a positive attitude toward text messages was reported. RCTs reported improved treatment adherence and symptom surveillance. Other positive points included an increase in appointment attendance and in satisfaction with management and health care services. Insight into message content, preventative strategies, and innovative approaches derived from the mental health field may be applicable in other medical specialties.
Kreuze, E et al (2017) [Systematic Review] Technology-enhanced Suicide Prevention Interventions: A Systematic Review
Objective: Suicide prevention is a high priority. Scalable and sustainable interventions for suicide prevention are needed to set the stage for population-level impact. This systematic review explores how technology enhanced interventions target suicide risk and protective factors, using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2015) Risk and Protective Factors Ecological Model. Methods: Information databases (PsycINFO, PubMed and CINAHL) were systematically searched and records including technology-enhanced interventions for suicide prevention (n = 3764) were reviewed. Records with varying technologies and diverse methodologies were integrated into the search. Results:Review of the records resulted in the inclusion of 16 studies that utilized technology-enhanced interventions to address determinants of suicidal behaviour. This includes the use of standalone or, in most cases, adjunct technology-enhanced interventions for suicide prevention delivered by mobile phone application, text message, telephone, computer, web, CD-ROM and video. Conclusion: Intervention effectiveness was variable, but several technology-enhanced interventions have demonstrated effectiveness in reducing suicidal ideation and mental health co-morbidities. Large-scale research and evaluation initiatives are needed to evaluate the costs and long-term population-level impact of these interventions.
Leavey, K, Hawkins, R (2017) [Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis] Is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Effective in Reducing Suicidal Ideation and Behaviour When Delivered Face-To-Face or via E-Health? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)is a widely used psychotherapeutic intervention for suicide prevention despite its efficacy for suicide prevention in adults remaining ambiguous. Reluctance or inability to access face-to-face help suggests that e-health delivery may be a valuable resource for suicidal people. The aim of this study was to systematically review and conduct meta-analysis on research assessing the efficacy of CBT delivered via face-to-face and e-health for suicidal ideation and behaviour. A comprehensive literature search of MEDLINE, PsycINFO, Scopus, PubMed and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials was conducted. From 764 identified articles, 26 met the inclusion criteria for investigating CBT for suicidal ideation and behaviours in adult populations. Data were extracted on study characteristics and meta-analysis was performed where possible. There was a statistically significant, small to medium effect for face-to-face delivered CBT in reducing suicidal ideation and behaviour although there was significant heterogeneity between the included studies. CBT delivered via ehealth was not found to be efficacious for reducing suicidal ideation and behaviour in adults though the number of studies reviewed was small.
Witt, K et al (2017) [Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis] Effectiveness of Online and Mobile Telephone Applications (‘Apps’) for the SelfManagement of Suicidal Ideation and Self-Harm: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
Background: Online and mobile telephone applications have the potential to improve the scalability of effective interventions for suicidal ideation and self-harm. The aim of this review was therefore to investigate the effectiveness of digital interventions for the self-management of suicidal ideation or self-harm. Methods: Seven databases [Applied Science and Technology; CENTRAL; CRESP; Embase; Global Health; PsycARTICLES; PsycINFO; Medline] were searched to 31 March, 2017. Studies that examined the effectiveness of digital interventions for suicidal ideation and/or self-harm, or which reported outcome data for suicidal ideation and/or self-harm, within a randomised controlled trial, pseudo-RCT, or observational pre-test/post-test design were included in the review. Results: Fourteen non-overlapping studies were included, reporting data from a total of 3,356 participants. Overall, digital interventions were associated with reductions for suicidal ideation scores at post-intervention. There was no evidence of a treatment effect for self-harm or attempted suicide. Conclusions: Most studies were biased in relation to at least one aspect of study design, and particularly the domains of participant, clinical personnel, and outcome assessor blinding. Performance and detection bias therefore cannot be ruled out. Digital interventions for suicidal ideation and self-harm may be more effective than waitlist control. It is unclear whether these reductions would be clinically meaningful at present. Further evidence, particularly with regards to the potential mechanisms of action of these interventions, as well as safety, is required before these interventions could recommended.
Noh, Det al (2016) [Systematic Review] Effectiveness of Telephone-Delivered Interventions Following Suicide Attempts: A Systematic Review
Aim: To evaluate efficacy of telephone-delivered interventions following suicide attempts. Methods: Systematic review, meta-analysis, and narrative synthesis. Results: Five papers evaluating telephone interventions were included. Three studies provided suicide attempters with telephone contact intervention, and two studies provided deliberate self-harm patients with crisis cards to help after discharge. Meta-analyses showed that telephone contact intervention did not significantly reduce further suicide attempts and completed suicides, and the crisis card did not significantly reduce further deliberate self-harm. Conclusion: Telephone-delivered interventions have been suggested as an alternative to face-to-face psychotherapy, but their effectiveness in reducing the recurrence of suicide attempts is not supported.
Randomised Controlled Trials
O’Toole, MS et al (2019) [Randomised Controlled Trial] Testing an App-Assisted Treatment for Suicide Prevention in a Randomized Controlled Trial: Effects on Suicide Risk and Depression
Suicide is a global public health problem and effective psychological interventions are needed. The objective of the present study was to evaluate the effect of an app-assisted suicide prevention treatment on suicide risk and depression. One hundred twenty-nine participants were randomized to treatment as usual (TAU), consisting of psychotherapy adhering to the framework of Collaborative Assessment and Management of Suicidality (CAMS), with (TAU+APP, N = 60) or without (TAU, N = 69) access to a mobile application (ie LifeApp’tite). Suicide risk and symptoms of depression were assessed pre- and posttherapy, and at 4-month follow-up. The TAU+APP group showed a smaller decrease on self-reported suicide risk at the end of treatment, corresponding to a medium between-group effect size (p = .008, d = 0.46). At the 4-month follow-up this was the case only at the trend level, where the effect size was also of a smaller magnitude (p = .057, d = 0.30). No differences between the treatment groups were observed on self-reported depressive symptoms, either immediately following treatment (p = .732, d = 0.05) or at follow-up (p = .467, d = 0.11). The unexpected negative effect concerning suicide risk points to crucial consideration of issues pertaining to timing, dosing, and content when adding new technology to existing treatments both in this and other populations..
Berrouiguet, S et al (2018) [Case Series] Toward mHealth Brief Contact Interventions in Suicide Prevention: Case Series From the Suicide Intervention Assisted by Messages (SIAM) Randomized Controlled Trial
Background: Research indicates that maintaining contact either via letter or postcard with at-risk adults following discharge from care services after a suicide attempt (SA) can reduce reattempt risk. Pilot studies have demonstrated that interventions using mobile health (mHealth) technologies are feasible in a suicide prevention setting. Objective: The aim of this study was to report three cases of patients recruited in the Suicide Intervention Assisted by Messages (SIAM) study to describe how a mobile intervention may influence follow-up. Methods: SIAM is a 2-year, multicenter randomized controlled trial conducted by the Brest University Hospital, France. Participants in the intervention group receive SIAM text messages 48 hours after discharge, then at day 8 and day 15, and months 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. The study includes participants aged 18 years or older, who have attended a participating hospital for an SA, and have been discharged from the emergency department (ED) or a psychiatric unit (PU) for a stay of less than 7 days. Eligible participants are randomized between the SIAM intervention messages and a control group. In this study, we present three cases from the ongoing SIAM study that demonstrate the capability of a mobile-based brief contact intervention for triggering patient-initiated contact with a crisis support team at various time points throughout the mobile-based follow-up period. Results: Out of the 244 patients recruited in the SIAM randomized controlled trial, three cases were selected to illustrate the impact of mHealth on suicide risk management. Participants initiated contact with the emergency crisis support service after receiving text messages up to 6 months following discharge from the hospital. Contact was initiated immediately following receipt of a text message or up to 6 days following a message. Conclusions: This text message-based brief contact intervention has demonstrated the potential to reconnect suicidal individuals with crisis support services while they are experiencing suicidal ideation as well as in a period after receiving messages. As follow-up phone calls over an extended period of time may not be feasible, this intervention has the potential to offer simple technological support for individuals following discharge from the ED.
Wilks, CR et al (2018) [Randomised Controlled Trial] A Randomized Controlled Trial of an Internet Delivered Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Training for Suicidal and Heavy Episodic Drinkers
Background: Cognizant that alcohol misuse elevates risk of suicide death among ideators, the paucity of treatment outcome research for individuals presenting with both suicide ideation and problem drinking is particularly troubling. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) skills training, which effectively targets behaviors associated with emotion dysregulation including addictive and suicidal behaviors, provides a fitting model amenable to computerization. As stigma and scarcity stand as potential barriers to treatment, online dissemination platforms provide means for efficient treatment delivery that can augment the utility of suitable interventions. This pilot RCT sought to evaluate the feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary efficacy of an Internet-delivered DBT skills training intervention (iDBT-ST) for suicidal individuals who engage in heavy episodic drinking METHODS: Participants (n = 59) were randomized to receive iDBT-ST immediately or after an 8-week waiting period. Clinical outcomes were suicide ideation, alcohol use, and emotion dysregulation. Results: Participants on average saw a significant reduction in all outcomes over the four-month study period. Compared to waitlist controls, individuals who received iDBT-ST immediately showed faster reductions in alcohol consumption. Conclusions: Preliminary results suggest that iDBT-ST may be a viable resource for the high-risk and underserved group represented in this study, and pathways for future development are suggested.
Tighe, J et al (2017) [Randomised Controlled Trial] Ibobbly Mobile Health Intervention for Suicide Prevention in Australian Indigenous Youth: A Pilot Randomised Controlled Trial
Objectives: Rates of youth suicide in Australian Indigenous communities are 4 times the national youth average and demand innovative interventions. Historical and persistent disadvantage is coupled with multiple barriers to help seeking. Mobile phone applications offer the opportunity to deliver therapeutic interventions directly to individuals in remote communities. The pilot study aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of a self-help mobile app (ibobbly) targeting suicidal ideation, depression, psychological distress and impulsivity among Indigenous youth in remote Australia. Setting: Remote and very remote communities in the Kimberley region of North Western Australia. Participants: Indigenous Australians aged 18-35 years. Interventions: 61 participants were recruited and randomised to receive either an app (ibobbly) which delivered acceptance-based therapy over 6 weeks or were waitlisted for 6 weeks and then received the app for the following 6 weeks. Primary and Secondary Outcome Measures: The primary outcome was the Depressive Symptom Inventory-Suicidality Subscale (DSI-SS) to identify the frequency and intensity of suicidal ideation in the previous weeks. Secondary outcomes were the Patient Health Questionnaire 9 (PHQ-9), The Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10) and the Barratt Impulsivity Scale (BIS-11). Results: Although preintervention and postintervention changes on the (DSI-SS) were significant in the ibobbly arm (t=2.40; df=58.1; p=0.0195), these differences were not significant compared with the waitlist arm (t=1.05; df=57.8; p=0.2962). However, participants in the ibobbly group showed substantial and statistically significant reductions in PHQ-9 and K10 scores compared with waitlist. No differences were observed in impulsivity. Waitlist participants improved after 6 weeks of app use. Conclusions: Apps for suicide prevention reduce distress and depression but do not show significant reductions on suicide ideation or impulsivity. A feasible and acceptable means of lowering symptoms for mental health disorders in remote communities is via appropriately designed self-help apps.
Franklin, JC et al (2016) [Randomised Controlled Trial] A Brief Mobile App Reduces Nonsuicidal and Suicidal Self-Injury: Evidence From Three Randomized Controlled Trials
Objective: Self-injurious thoughts and behaviors (SITBs) are a major public health problem that traditional interventions have been unable to address on a large scale. The goal of this series of studies was to take initial steps toward developing an effective SITB treatment that can be easily delivered on a very large scale. Method: We created a brief (1-2 min), game app called Therapeutic Evaluative Conditioning (TEC), designed to increase aversion to SITBs and decrease aversion to the self. In 3 separate studies, we recruited participants with recent and severe histories of SITBs from web forums focused on self-injury and psychopathology (Ns = 114, 131, and 163) and randomly assigned them to receive access to the mobile treatment TEC app or a control app for 1 month. We tested the effect of TEC on the frequency of self-cutting, nonsuicidal self-injury more generally, suicide ideation, suicide plans, and suicidal behaviors. Results: Analyses showed that, compared with the control app, TEC produced moderate reductions for all SITBs except suicide ideation. Across studies, the largest and most consistent reductions were for self-cutting episodes (32%-40%), suicide plans (21%-59%), and suicidal behaviors (33%-77%). Two of the 3 studies showed that TEC impacted its intended treatment targets and that greater change in these targets was associated with greater SITB reductions. TEC effects were not maintained at the 1-month post-treatment follow-up. Conclusions: Future versions of brief, mobile interventions may have the potential to reduce SITBs and related behaviors on a large scale.
King, CA et al (2015) [Randomised Controlled Trial] Online Suicide Risk Screening and Intervention With College Students: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial
Objective: This pilot randomized controlled trial examined the effect of an online intervention for college students at risk for suicide, Electronic Bridge to Mental Health Services (eBridge), which included personalized feedback and optional online counseling delivered in accordance with motivational interviewing principles. Primary outcomes were readiness to seek information or talk with family and friends about mental health treatment, readiness to seek mental health treatment, and actual treatment linkage. Method: Participants were 76 college students (45 women, 31 men; mean age = 22.9 years, SD = 5.0 years) at a large public university who screened positive for suicide risk, defined by at least 2 of the following: suicidal thoughts, history of suicide attempt, depression, and alcohol abuse. Racial/ethnic self-identifications were primarily Caucasian (n = 54) and Asian (n = 21). Students were randomized to eBridge or the control condition (personalized feedback only, offered in plain report format). Outcomes were measured at 2-month follow-up. Results: Despite relatively modest engagement in online counseling (29% of students posted ≥1 message), students assigned to eBridge reported significantly higher readiness for help-seeking scores, especially readiness to talk to family, talk to friends, and see a mental health professional. Students assigned to eBridge also reported lower stigma levels and were more likely to link to mental health treatment. Conclusions: Findings suggest that offering students personalized feedback and the option of online counseling, using motivational interviewing principles, has a positive impact on students’ readiness to consider and engage in mental health treatment. Further research is warranted to determine the robustness of this effect, the mechanism by which improved readiness and treatment linkage occurs, and the longer term impact on student mental health outcomes.
Objective: A novel avatar system (Virtual Collaborative Assessment and Management of Suicidality System; V-CAMS) for suicidal patients and medical personnel in emergency departments was developed and evaluated. V-CAMS facilitates the delivery of CAMS and other evidence-based interventions to reduce unnecessary hospitalization, readmissions, and suicide following an ED visit. Method: Using iterative user-centered design with 24 suicidal patients, an avatar prototype, ‘Dr. Dave’ [based on Dr. Jobes] was created, along with other patient-facing tools; provider-facing tools, including a clinical decision support tool were also designed and tested to aid discharge disposition. Results: Feasibility tests supported proof of concept. Suicidal patients affirmed the system’s overall merit, positive Perception of Care, and acceptability; medical providers (n = 21) viewed the system as an efficient, effective, and safe method of improving care for suicidal ED patients and reducing unnecessary hospitalization. Conclusions: Technology tools including a patient-facing avatar and e-caring contacts, along with provider-facing tools may offer a powerful method of facilitating best-practice suicide prevention interventions and point-of-care tools for suicidal patients seeking ED services and their medical providers. Future directions include full development of V-CAMS and integration into a health electronic medical record and a rigorous randomized controlled trial to study its effectiveness.
Castillo-Sanchez, G et al (2019) Suicide Prevention Mobile Apps: Descriptive Analysis of Apps From the Most Popular Virtual Stores
Background: Provision of follow-up and care during treatment of people with suicidal intentions is a challenge for health professionals and experts in information and communications technology (ICT). Therefore, health professionals and ICT experts are making efforts to carry out these activities in collaboration by using obile apps as a technological resource. Objective: This study aimed to descriptively analyze mobile apps aimed at suicide prevention and to determine relevant factors in their design and development. In addition, it sought to analyze their impact on the support of treatment for patients at risk for suicide. Methods: We considered 20 apps previously listed in the article ‘Mobile Apps for Suicide Prevention: Review of Virtual Stores and Literature’ [de la Torre et al 2017]. To find the apps in this list, the most popular app stores Android and iOS were searched using the keyword suicide prevention. The research focused on publicly available app information: language, platform, and user ratings. The results obtained were statistically evaluated using 16 parameters that establish various factors that may affect the choice of the user, and the consequent support that the app can offer to a person at risk for suicide. Results: Of the 20 mobile apps, 4 no longer appeared in the app stores and were therefore excluded. Analysis of the remaining 16 apps sampled showed the following: 1. a high percentage of the apps analyzed in the study (n=13, 82%) are provided in English language; 2. the sampled apps were last updated in 2017, when only 45% of them were updated, but the constant and progressive update of treatments should be reflected in the apps; and 3. the technical quality of these apps cannot be determined on the basis of the distribution of scores, because their popularity indices can be subjective according to the users. User preference for a particular operating system would require further, more specific research, including study of the differences in the technical and usability aspects between both platforms and the design of medical apps. Conclusions: Although there are positive approaches to the use of apps for suicide prevention and follow-up, the technical and human aspects are yet to be explored and defined. For example, the design and development of apps that support suicide prevention should be strongly supported by health personnel to humanize these apps, so that the effectiveness of the treatments supported by them can be improved.
Gilmore, AK, Ward-Ciesielski, EF (2019) Perceived Risks and Use of Psychotherapy via Telemedicine for Patients at Risk for Suicide
Introduction: Suicide is a major public health problem and its human, emotional, and economic costs are significant. Individuals in rural areas are at highest risk for suicide. However, telemedicine services are typically not rendered to individuals who are actively suicidal. The goals of the current study were to identify the risks of using telemedicine for mental healthcare from the perspective of licensed mental health providers and to determine factors associated with the use of telemedicine with patients who are at high risk for suicide. Methods: A total of 52 licensed mental health providers were recruited online through several professional organization listservs and targeted emails. Providers completed online questionnaires regarding demographics, caseload of suicidal patients, perceived risks for using telemedicine with patients at risk for suicide, attitudes towards telemedicine, and use of telemedicine with patients at risk for suicide. Results: Three key perceived risks associated with using telemedicine were identified, including assessment, lack of control over patient, and difficulties triaging patients if needed. It was also found that individuals who had more positive attitudes towards telemedicine, younger providers, and more experienced providers were more likely to use telemedicine with patients who are at high risk for suicide. Discussion: To our knowledge, this is the first study to examine the perceived risks and use of telemedicine with patients at high risk for suicide. It is essential to continue this line of research to develop protocols for the provision of evidence-based therapy via telemedicine for this high-risk group.
Background: There are an estimated 800,000 suicides per year globally, and approximately 16,000,000 suicide attempts. Mobile apps may help address the unmet needs of people at risk. We assessed adherence of suicide prevention advice in depression management and suicide prevention apps to six evidence-based clinical guideline recommendations: mood and suicidal thought tracking, safety plan development, recommendation of activities to deter suicidal thoughts, information and education, access to support networks, and access to emergency counseling. Methods: A systematic assessment of depression and suicide prevention apps available in Google Play and Apple’s App Store was conducted. Apps were identified by searching 42matters in January 2019 for apps launched or updated since January 2017; general characteristics of apps, adherence with six suicide prevention strategies identified in evidence-based clinical guidelines using a 50-question checklist developed by the study team, and trustworthiness of the app based on HONcode principles were appraised and reported as a narrative review, using descriptive statistics. Results: The initial search yielded 2690 potentially relevant apps. Sixty-nine apps met inclusion criteria and were systematically assessed. There were 20 depression management apps (29%), 3 (4%) depression management and suicide prevention apps, and 46 (67%) suicide prevention apps. Eight (12%) depression management apps were chatbots. Only 5/69 apps (7%) incorporated all six suicide prevention strategies. Six apps (6/69, 9%), including two apps available in both app stores and downloaded more than one million times each, provided an erroneous crisis helpline number. Most apps included emergency contact information (65/69 apps, 94%) and direct access to a crisis helpline through the app (46/69 apps, 67%). Conclusions: Non-existent or inaccurate suicide crisis helpline phone numbers were provided by mental health apps downloaded more than 2 million times. Only five out of 69 depression and suicide prevention apps offered all six evidence-based suicide prevention strategies. This demonstrates a failure of Apple and Google app stores, and the health app industry in self-governance, and quality and safety assurance. Governance levels should be stratified by the risks and benefits to users of the app, such as when suicide prevention advice is provided.
The use of embodied conversational agents in mental health has increased in the last years. Several studies exist describing the benefits and advantages of this technology as a complement to psychotherapeutic interventions for the prevention and treatment of depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder, to name a few. A small number of these works implement capabilities in the virtual agent focused on the detection and prevention of suicidality risks. The work presented in this paper describes the development of an embodied conversational agent used as the main interface in HelPath, a mobile-based application addressed to individuals detected with any of the suicidal behaviours: ideation, planning or attempt. The main objective of HelPath is to continuously collect user’s information that, complemented with data from the electronic health record, supports the identification of risks associated with suicidality. Through the virtual agent, the users also receive information and suggestions based on cognitive behaviour therapy that would help them to maintain a healthy condition. The paper also presents the execution of an exploratory pilot to assess the acceptability, perception and adherence of users towards the virtual agent. The obtained results are presented and discussed, and some actions for further improvement of the embodied conversational agent are also identified.
Buus, N et al (2018) [Focus Group] Stakeholder Perspectives on Using and Developing the MYPLAN Suicide Prevention Mobile Phone Application: A Focus Group Study
The objective of this study was to explore different stakeholder perspectives on the MYPLAN app for suicide prevention safety planning. The study was a comparative analysis of 4 focus groups with Danish MYPLAN stakeholders, young users, adult users, relatives, and clinicians. The focus groups were audio recorded, transcribed, and subjected to a thematic analysis. The analysis contextualized the participants’ experiences of the benefits and limitations of MYPLAN. While participants believed that MYPLAN could potentially interrupt early stages of a suicidal process, clinicians’ involvement in safety planning was considered important. MYPLAN could potentially give users a sense of increased personal control but learning how to effectively safety plan was not perceived to be simple and additional support should be considered for MYPLAN users.
Franco-Martin, MA et al (2018) [Literature Review] A Systematic Literature Review of Technologies for Suicidal Behavior Prevention
Suicide is the second cause of death in young people. The use of technologies as tools facilitates the detection of individuals at risk of suicide thus allowing early intervention and efficacy. Suicide can be prevented in many cases. Technology can help people at risk of suicide and their families. It could prevent situations of risk of suicide with the technological evolution that is increasing. This work is a systematic review of research papers published in the last ten years on technology for suicide prevention. In September 2017, the consultation was carried out in the scientific databases PubMed, ScienceDirect, PsycINFO, The Cochrane Library and Google Scholar. A general search was conducted with the terms prevention AND suicide AND technology. More specific searches included technologies such as Web, mobile, social networks, and others terms related to technologies. The number of articles found following the methodology proposed was 90, but only 30 are focused on the objective of this work. Most of them were Web technologies (51.61%), mobile solutions (22.58%), social networks (12.90%), machine learning (3.23%) and other technologies (9.68%). According to the results obtained, although there are technological solutions that help the prevention of suicide, much remains to be done in this field. Collaboration among technologists, psychiatrists, patients, and family members is key to advancing the development of new technology-based solutions that can help save lives.
Background: This study provides an analysis on the use of emerging technologies for the prevention of suicide in 8 different European countries. Objective: The objective of this study was to analyze the potentiality of using emerging technologies in the area of suicide prevention based on the opinion of different professionals involved in suicide prevention. Methods: Opinions of 3 groups of stakeholders (ie relevant professionals in suicide field) were gathered using a specifically designed questionnaire to explore dimensions underlying perceptions of facilitating factors and barriers in relation to the use of emerging technologies for suicide prevention. Results: Objective 1 involved facilitating factors for the use of emerging technologies in suicide prevention. Northern European countries, except for Belgium, attach greater relevance to those that optimize implementation and benefits. On the other hand, Southern European countries attach greater importance to professionally oriented and user-centered facilitating factors. According to different stakeholders, the analysis of these facilitating factors suggest that professionals in the field of social work attach greater relevance to those that optimize implementation and benefits. However, professionals involved in the area of mental health, policy makers, and political decision makers give greater importance to professionally oriented and user-centered facilitating factors. Objective 2 was related to barriers to the usability of emerging technologies for suicide prevention. Both countries and stakeholders attach greater importance to barriers associated with resource constraints than to those centered on personal limitations. There are no differences between countries or between stakeholders. Nevertheless, there is a certain stakeholders-countries interaction that indicates that the opinions on resource constraints expressed by different stakeholders do not follow a uniform pattern in different countries, but they differ depending on the country. Conclusions: Although all countries and stakeholders agree in identifying resource constraints as the main barrier to the use of emerging technologies, factors facilitating their use in suicide prevention differ among countries and among stakeholders.
Purpose: As rates of suicide continue to rise, there is urgent need for innovative approaches to better understand, predict, and care for those at high risk of suicide. Numerous mobile and sensor technology solutions have already been proposed, are in development, or are already available today. This review seeks to assess their clinical evidence and help the reader understand the current state of the field. Recent Findings: Advances in smartphone sensing, machine learning methods, and mobile apps directed towards reducing suicide offer promising evidence; however, most of these innovative approaches are still nascent. Further replication and validation of preliminary results is needed. Whereas numerous promising mobile and sensor technology based solutions for real time understanding, predicting, and caring for those at highest risk of suicide are being studied today, their clinical utility remains largely unproven. However, given both the rapid pace and vast scale of current research efforts, we expect clinicians will soon see useful and impactful digital tools for this space within the next 2 to 5 years.
Background: Safety planning is a brief intervention that has become an accepted practice in many clinical settings to help prevent suicide. Even though it is quick compared to other approaches, it frequently requires 20 min or more to complete, which can impede adoption. A self-administered, web-based safety planning application could potentially reduce clinician time, help promote standardization and quality, and provide enhanced ability to share the created plan. Objective: The aim of this study was to design, build, and test the usability of a web-based, self-administered safety planning application. Methods: We employed a user-centered software design strategy led by a multidisciplinary team. The application was tested for usability with a target sample of suicidal patients. Detailed observations, structured usability ratings, and Think Aloud procedures were used. Suicidal ideation intensity and perceived ability to cope were assessed pre-post engagement with the Web application. Results: A total of 30 participants were enrolled. Usability ratings were generally strong, and all patients successfully built a safety plan. However, the completeness of the safety plan varied. The mean number of steps completed was 5.5 (SD 0.9) out of 6, with 90% (27/30) of participants completing at least 5 steps and 67% (20/30) completing all 6 steps. Some safety planning steps were viewed as inapplicable to some individuals. Some confusion in instructions led to modifications to improve understandability of each step. Ratings of suicide intensity after completion of the application were significantly lower than preratings, pre: mean 5.11 (SD 2.9) versus post: mean 4.46 (SD 3.0), t27=2.49, P=.02. Ratings of ability to cope with suicidal thoughts after completion of the application were higher than preratings, with the difference approaching statistical significance, pre: mean 5.93 (SD 2.9), post: mean 6.64 (SD 2.4), t27=-2.03, P=.05. Conclusions: We have taken the first step toward identifying the components needed to maximize usability of a self-administered, web-based safety planning application. Results support initial consideration of the application as an adjunct to clinical contact. This allows for the clinician or other personnel to provide clarification, when needed, to help the patient build the plan, and to help review and revise the draft.
Exbrayat, S et al (2017) [Controlled Study] Effect of Telephone Follow-Up on Repeated Suicide Attempt in Patients Discharged From an Emergency Psychiatry Department: A Controlled Study
Background: Attempted suicide is a major public health problem, and the efficacies of current postvention protocols vary. We evaluated the effectiveness of telephone follow-up of patients referred to an emergency psychiatric unit for attempted suicide on any further attempt/s over the following year. Method: In a single-center, controlled study with intent to treat, we evaluated the efficacy of a protocol of telephone follow-up of 436 patients at 8, 30, and 60 days after they were treated for attempted suicide. As controls for comparison, we evaluated patients with similar social and demographic characteristics referred to our emergency psychiatric unit in the year prior to the study who did not receive telephone follow-up after their initial hospitalization. Data were analyzed using logistic regression. Results: Very early telephone follow-up of our patients effectively reduced recidivism and seemed to be the only protective factor against repeated suicide attempt. Conclusions: Implementing a protocol of early telephone follow-up after attempted suicide could help prevent repeated attempt/s. More controlled studies are needed to assess optimal techniques to prevent such repetition.
Background: Suicide is a leading cause of death, particularly among young people. Continuity of care following discharge from hospital is critical, yet this is a time when individuals often lose contact with health care services. Offline brief contact interventions following a suicide attempt can reduce the number of repeat attempts, and text message interventions are currently being evaluated. Objective: The aim of this study was to extend postattempt caring contacts by designing a brief web-based intervention targeting proximal risk factors and the needs of this population during the postattempt period. This paper details the development process and describes the realized system. Methods: To inform the design of the intervention, a lived experience design group was established. Participants were asked about their experiences of support following their suicide attempt, their needs during this time, and how these could be addressed in a brief contact eHealth intervention. The intervention design was also informed by consultation with lived experience panels external to the project and a clinical design group. Results: Prompt outreach following discharge, initial distraction activities with low cognitive demands, and ongoing support over an extended period were identified as structural requirements of the intervention. Key content areas identified included coping with distressing feelings, safety planning, emotional regulation and acceptance, coping with suicidal thoughts, connecting with others and interpersonal relationships, and managing alcohol consumption. Conclusions: The RAFT (Reconnecting AFTer a suicide attempt) text message brief contact intervention combines SMS contacts with additional web-based brief therapeutic content targeting key risk factors. It has the potential to reduce the number of repeat suicidal episodes and to provide accessible, acceptable, and cost-effective support for individuals who may not otherwise seek face-to-face treatment. A pilot study to test the feasibility and acceptability of the RAFT intervention is underway.
Martinez-Miranda, J (2017) [Literature Review] Embodied Conversational Agents for the Detection and Prevention of Suicidal Behaviour: Current Applications and Open Challenges
Embodied conversational agents (ECAs) are advanced computational interactive interfaces designed with the aim to engage users in the continuous and long-term use of a background application. The advantages and benefits of these agents have been exploited in several e-health systems. One of the medical domains where ECAs are recently applied is to support the detection of symptoms, prevention and treatment of mental health disorders. As ECAs based applications are increasingly used in clinical psychology, and due that one fatal consequence of mental health problems is the commitment of suicide, it is necessary to analyse how current ECAs in this clinical domain support the early detection and prevention of risk situations associated with suicidality. The present work provides and overview of the main features implemented in the ECAs to detect and prevent suicidal behaviours through two scenarios: ECAs acting as virtual counsellors to offer immediate help to individuals in risk; and ECAs acting as virtual patients for learning/training in the identification of suicide behaviours. A literature review was performed to identify relevant studies in this domain during the last decade, describing the main characteristics of the implemented ECAs and how they have been evaluated. A total of six studies were included in the review fulfilling the defined search criteria. Most of the experimental studies indicate promising results, though these types of ECAs are not yet commonly used in routine practice. The identification of some open challenges for the further development of ECAs within this domain is also discussed.
Pauwels, K et al (2017) [Evaluation Study] BackUp: Development and Evaluation of a Smart-Phone Application for Coping With Suicidal Crises
Background: Suicide is a major public health issue and has large impact on the lives of many people. Innovative technologies such as smartphones could create new possibilities for suicide prevention, such as helping to overcome the barriers and stigma on help seeking in case of suicidal ideation. Due to their omnipresence, smartphone apps can offer suicide prevention tools very fast, they are easily-accessible, low-threshold and can help overcome some of the help-seeking barriers suicidal people experience. This article describes the development, testing and implementation of a mobile application for coping with suicidal crisis: BackUp. Methods: Based on the analysis of literature and existing suicide prevention apps several tools were identified as relevant to include in a suicide prevention app. The selected tools (a safety planning tool, a hope box, a coping cards module, and a module to reach out) are evidence based in a face to face context, and could be easily transferred into a mobile app. The testing of existing apps and the literature also revealed important guidelines for the technical development of the application. Results: BackUp was developed and tested by an expert panel (n = 9) and a panel of end users (n = 21). Both groups rated BackUp as valuable for suicide prevention. Suicidal ideation of the end user group was measured using the Beck Scale for Suicidal Ideation before and after testing BackUp, and showed a small but non-significant decrease. The majority of the testers used BackUp several times. All tools were evaluated as rather or very useable in times of suicidal crisis. Conclusion: BackUp was positively evaluated and indicates that self-help tools can have a positive impact on suicidal ideation. Apps in particular create opportunities in approaching people that are not reached by traditional interventions; on the other hand, they can contribute to suicide prevention in addition to regular care. However, more research is needed on the impact and effect of suicide prevention apps.
Kasckow, J et al (2016) [Pilot Trial] Using Telehealth to Augment an Intensive Case Monitoring Program in Veterans With Schizophrenia and Suicidal Ideation: A Pilot Trial
Veterans with schizophrenia admitted for suicidal ideation were recruited into a post-discharge program consisting of Intensive Case Monitoring (ICM) with daily monitoring with the Health Buddy (HB; experimental group) or ICM alone (control group). This study tested the feasibility of the telehealth monitoring intervention in this population. Secondly, we determined whether augmentation of ICM with our intervention for 3 months would result in a reduction in suicidal ideation. Twenty of 25 telehealth participants could set up the device. Monthly adherence for telehealth participants was > 80%. A qualitative analysis of endpoint surveys revealed that the majority of participants had positive responses. In both groups, there were improvements in Beck Scale for Suicidal Ideation (BSS) scores at endpoint relative to baseline. No group differences were present with survival analysis when using remission [ie BSS score = 0] as the outcome; however, in a subgroup with a history of suicide attempt, there was a trend (p = .093) for a higher rate of remission for those in the HB condition. In conclusion, telehealth monitoring for this population appears to be feasible for those who are able to start using the system. The pilot data obtained should help investigators design better telehealth interventions for this population.
Larsen, ME et al (2016) [Review] A Systematic Assessment of Smartphone Tools for Suicide Prevention
Background: Suicide is a leading cause of death globally, and there has been a rapid growth in the use of new technologies such as mobile health applications to help identify and support those at risk. However, it is not known whether these apps are evidence-based, or indeed contain potentially harmful content. This review examines the concordance of features in publicly available apps with current scientific evidence of effective suicide prevention strategies. Methods: Apps referring to suicide or deliberate self-harm (DSH) were identified on the Android and iOS app stores. Systematic review methodology was employed to screen and review app content. App features were labelled using a coding scheme that reflected the broad range of evidence-based medical and population-based suicide prevention interventions. Best-practice for suicide prevention was based upon a World Health Organization report and supplemented by other reviews of the literature. Results: One hundred and twenty-three apps referring to suicide were identified and downloaded for full review, 49 of which were found to contain at least one interactive suicide prevention feature. Most apps focused on obtaining support from friends and family (n = 27) and safety planning (n = 14). Of the different suicide prevention strategies contained within the apps, the strongest evidence in the literature was found for facilitating access to crisis support (n = 13). All reviewed apps contained at least one strategy that was broadly consistent with the evidence base or best-practice guidelines. Apps tended to focus on a single suicide prevention strategy (mean = 1.1), although safety plan apps provided the opportunity to provide a greater number of techniques (mean = 3.9). Potentially harmful content, such as listing lethal access to means or encouraging risky behaviour in a crisis, was also identified. Discussion: Many suicide prevention apps are available, some of which provide elements of best practice, but none that provide comprehensive evidence-based support. Apps with potentially harmful content were also identified. Despite the number of apps available, and their varied purposes, there is a clear need to develop useful, pragmatic, and multifaceted mobile resources for this population. Clinicians should be wary in recommending apps, especially as potentially harmful content can be presented as helpful. Currently safety plan apps are the most comprehensive and evidence-informed.
Rizvi, S et al (2016) The DBT Coach Mobile Application as an Adjunct to Treatment for Suicidal and Self-Injuring Individuals With Borderline Personality Disorder: A Preliminary Evaluation and Challenges to Client Utilization
Acquisition and generalization of specific behavioral skills is a key component of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) for individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD). We examined the feasibility, acceptability, usability, and immediate effects of the DBT Coach, a mobile phone application designed specifically to augment skills generalization through interactive coaching in DBT skills. In this pilot study, we provided the DBT Coach installed on a mobile device as an adjunct to 6 months of standard DBT, among a sample of 16 individuals with BPD and a recent history of attempted suicide and/or nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI). Results indicate good acceptability and usability of the DBT Coach with considerable between-person variability in the frequency of app use and a median use of only 11.5 times over the course of treatment and a 3-month follow-up period. Using a hierarchical linear modeling approach, analyses indicated the DBT Coach reduced subjective distress and urges to self-harm following app use. However, use of the DBT Coach was not related to any treatment outcomes, except for reductions in NSSI. This study is the first to examine the use of mobile technology as an adjunct in DBT and highlights some potential challenges in incorporating apps into treatment. Implications for future research and clinical utility are discussed.
Vahabzadeh, A et al (2016) [Review] Digital Suicide Prevention: Can Technology Become a Game-changer?
Suicide continues to be a leading cause of death and has been recognized as a significant public health issue. Rapid advances in data science can provide us with useful tools for suicide prevention, and help to dynamically assess suicide risk in quantitative data-driven ways. In this article, the authors highlight the most current international research in digital suicide prevention, including the use of machine learning, smartphone applications, and wearable sensor driven systems. The authors also discuss future opportunities for digital suicide prevention, and propose a novel Sensor-driven Mental State Assessment System.
Introduction: In Australia there is an overwhelming need to provide effective treatment to patients presenting to the Emergency Department (ED) in mental health crisis. We adapted Improving Access to Psychological Therapies service model (IAPT) from the National Health Service (NHS) method for the large scale delivery of psychological therapies throughout the UK to an Australian ED setting. This telephone-based low intensity therapy was provided to people presenting in crisis to the EDs with combinations of anxiety, depression, substance use, and suicidal thinking. Methods: This uncontrolled study utilised session-by-session, before-and-after measures of anxiety and depression via Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) and Generalised Anxiety Disorder-7 (GAD-7). Results: Of 347 eligible post-crisis ED referred patients, 291 (83.9%) engaged with the IAPT team. Most patients (65%) had attended the ED previously on an average of 3.9 (SD = 6.0) occasions. Two hundred and forty-one patients received an average of 4.1 (SD = 2.3) contacts of low-intensity psychological therapies including 1.2 (SD = 1.7) community outreach visits between 20th Oct 2011 and 31st Dec 2012. Treated patients reported clinically significant improvements in anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation. Uncontrolled effect sizes were moderate for anxiety (0.6) and depression (0.6). Discussion: The Australian ED IAPT program demonstrated that the UK IAPT program could be adapted for emergency mental health patients and be associated with similar clinical benefits as the original program.
Cebria, AI et al (2015) [Clinical Trial] Telephone Management Program for Patients Discharged From an Emergency Department After a Suicide Attempt: A 5-Year Follow-Up Study in a Spanish Population
Aim: In a previous controlled study, the authors reported on the significant beneficial effects of a telephone intervention program for prevention of suicide attempts by patients for up to 1 year. This study reports the 5-year follow-up data. Outcomes were number of recurrences and time to recurrence. Method: The intervention was carried out on patients discharged from the emergency room following attempted suicide (Sabadell). It consisted of a systematic, 1-year telephone follow-up program: after 1 week, and thereafter at 1-, 3-, 6-, 9-, and 12-month intervals to assess the risk of suicide and encourage adherence to treatment. The population in the control group (Terrassa) received treatment as usual after discharge, without additional telephone contact. Results: The effect of reattempt prevention observed in the first year was not maintained over the long term. Conclusion: A telephone management program for patients discharged from an ER after attempted suicide could be considered a useful strategy in delaying further suicide attempts and reducing the rate of reattempts in the first year. However, results showed that the beneficial effects were not maintained at the 5-year follow-up.
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