Testing an app–assisted treatment for suicide prevention in a randomized controlled trial: Effects on suicide risk and depression

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Abstract

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 (i.e., 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.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBehavior Therapy
Volume50
Issue2
Pages (from-to)421-429
Number of pages9
ISSN0005-7894
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Keywords

  • Internet therapy
  • depression
  • psychology
  • randomized controlled trial
  • suicide

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