Researchers from Shahid Beheshti University in Iran have been studying the efficacy of a novel intervention for reducing suicidal behaviour. For a year, they have been sending postcards to people who self poison in the hope that it will reduce their suicidal ideation and attempts.
Their randomised controlled trial published in the British Journal of Psychiatry studied 2,300 individuals, who were either sent 9 postcards or given the usual treatment over a 12 month period. The outcomes assessed at 12 months (n=2,113) were suicidal ideation, suicide attempts and self-cutting (proportion and event rates).
They found a significant reduction in:
- any suicidal ideation (relative risk reduction (RRR) = 0.31, 95% CI 0.22-0.38)
- any suicide attempt (RRR = 0.42, 95% CI 0.11-0.63)
- and number of attempts (incidence rate ratios (IRR) = 0.64, 95% CI 0.42-0.97).
There was no significant reduction in:
- any self-cutting (RRR = 0.14, 95% CI -0.29 to 0.42)
- or self-cutting events (IRR = 1.03 95% CI 0.76-1.39).
Unfortunately the study abstract doesn’t go into much detail and explain what was actually on the postcards.
The research team concluded that:
A postcard intervention reduced suicidal ideation and suicide attempts in a non-Western population. Sustained, brief contact by mail may reduce suicidal ideation and suicide attempts in individuals who self-poison.
Hassanian-Moghaddam H, Sarjami S, Kolahi AA, Carter GL. Postcards in Persia: randomised controlled trial to reduce suicidal behaviours 12 months after hospital-treated self-poisoning. Br J Psychiatry. 2011 Feb 22. [PubMed abstract]
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