Cognitive behavioral psychotherapy (CBT) based interventions after incidents of self-harm can help lower suicide rates, according to scientists from United Kingdom.

Nearly 800, 000 people die each year due to suicide while total suicide attempt numbers are nearly 20 times higher worldwide.

Federal US data reveals that suicide in America has reached its highest number in 30 years, with nearly 43,000 people die each year due to suicide. The increase is steeper for women, middle aged individuals, and people with American Indian origins. Robert D Putnam, professor of public policy at Harvard University said on the rise, “This is part of the larger emerging pattern of evidence of the links between poverty, hopelessness and health.”

This calls for better therapeutic solutions and interventions to treat people with such feelings of “hopelessness”. Danuta Wasserman, psychiatrist and a WHO collaborator from Sweden, explains that self-harm is a replicative behavior and is associated with future risk of suicide.

The researchers from London reviewed 17 years worth of data to see which therapies actually help reduce number of suicides in individuals who show self-harming behavior (intentional acts of non-fatal self-poisoning or self-injury).

The answer: therapies with approaches like behavioral modification and problem solving therapies work best. The patients who received such therapies showed lesser repetitions of self-harm within a six-month to a one-year period. Not only this but patients who received cognitive behavioral psychotherapies also showed improvements in depression, suicide ideation, hopelessness and problem solving.

Cognitive behavioral psychotherapy is a type of “conversational” solution based therapy. CBT or talk therapy is what in common language is known as “talking to the shrink”. During a session the patient and the therapist focus on the issue, problems, and underlying causes that influence the patient’s decisions in all walks of life. Focusing on these decisions and modifying the behavior of the patient by generating ideas and solutions has previously led to better health outcomes.

Another type of therapy, the dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), was designed and is used to treat people with chronic suicidal ideation or people with borderline personality disorder (BPD). In this type of therapy, a patient is forced to confront his or her demons. By coming to terms with troubling thoughts and ideas in an individual’s head, a gradual plan of recovery can be devised by the therapist and the patient.

The UK research team, funded by the National Institute for Health Research, also saw how effective is the dialectical behavior therapy compared to other therapies, when it comes to people showing repeated behavior of self-harm. What they found was that DBT did not reduce the number of people inflicting repeated self-harm but it did reduce the frequency of self-harm.

Detailed results of the research project were published in The Lancet Psychiatry on July 12, 2016.

Self-harm or self-injury is common in United States. According to estimates, nearly 2,000,000 people injure themselves in some way, of whom the majority comprises of young adults and teenagers from all racial and financial backgrounds. Often this self-harm turns into suicide.

“Suicidal behaviors constitute a growing problem in most countries and healthcare systems require large amounts of resources to address them,” says Wasserman.

Dr Jane Pearson, the chairwoman of the US National Institute of Mental Health’s Suicide Research Consortium, notes that these resources are currently lacking in America.

NIH funding for suicide prevention projects was only 22 million US dollars in 2012 and 25 million US dollars in the year 2016. According to Dr Pearson, the resources are a small fraction of the funding that is kept for mental illnesses research projects (including mood disorders like depression) each year. On the other hand, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention estimates that suicide costs the country 44 million US dollars annually.