Can Brief Behavioral Health Interventions Reduce Suicidal and Self-Harm Ideation in Primary Care Patients?

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Objective: We examined whether brief behavioral health visits reduced suicidal and self-harm ideation among primary care patients and compared the effectiveness of interventions that targeted ideation directly (i.e., safety planning) with those that targeted ideation indirectly through management of underlying mental illness (e.g., behavioral activation). Method: We examined first- and last-visit data from 31 primary care patients with suicidal or self-harm ideation seen by behavioral health consultants. Results: Patients reported significantly lower frequencies of suicidal and self-harm ideation at their final visit than at their initial visit. Patients whose ideation was targeted directly showed greater improvements than patients whose ideation was targeted indirectly. Discussion: Although preliminary, results suggest mild to moderate suicidal ideation could be addressed in primary care through integration of behavioral health consultants into the medical team.

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