Brief psychological intervention after self-harm: randomised controlled trial from Pakistan

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Abstract

Background

Self-harm is a major risk factor for completed suicide.

Aims

To determine the efficacy of a brief psychological intervention - culturally adapted manual-assisted problem-solving training (C-MAP) - delivered following an episode of self-harm compared with treatment as usual (TAU).

Method

The study was a randomised controlled assessor-masked clinical trial (trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01308151). All patients admitted after an episode of self-harm during the previous 7 days to the participating medical units of three university hospitals in Karachi, Pakistan, were included in the study. A total of 250 patients were screened and 221 were randomly allocated to C-MAP plus treatment as usual (TAU) or to TAU alone. All patients were assessed at baseline, at 3 months (end of intervention) and at 6 months after baseline. The primary outcome measure was reduction in suicidal ideation at 3 months. The secondary outcome measures included hopelessness, depression, coping resources and healthcare utilisation.

Results

A total of 108 patients were randomised to the C-MAP group and 113 to the TAU group. Patients in the C-MAP group showed statistically significant improvement on the Beck Scale for Suicide Ideation and Beck Hopelessness Inventory, which was sustained at 3 months after the completion of C-MAP. There was also a significant reduction in symptoms of depression compared with patients receiving TAU.

Conclusions

The positive outcomes of this brief psychological intervention in patients attempting self-harm are promising and suggest that C-MAP may have a role in suicide prevention.

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