Digital interventions powerful for tackling suicidal thoughts: Aussie report

Source: Xinhua| 2019-11-29 15:03:13|Editor: xuxin
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SYDNEY, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- Digital suicide prevention strategies may be the best way to reach vulnerable people and help tackle growing suicide rates, according to a report released on Friday by Australia's Black Dog Institute.

A review of over 6,700 international articles, and 16 scientific trials showed that the emerging field of digital tools which target suicide could be an effective way of reaching those who might otherwise suffer in silence.

The digital approach breaks down a number of barriers including cost, flexibility and stigma which prevent many of those in need from accessing face-to-face treatment, study lead author, Dr. Michelle Tye from the Black Dog Institute said.

"They can be used flexibly, and they can be used anonymously -- which is quite important because perceived stigma around suicidality is one of the major barriers to people getting help," Tye said.

"Because these digital interventions can be delivered at low cost, and because technology is so pervasive, they have the potential to deliver high quality therapeutic support at scale," she added.

Groups such as males and youth, who Tye terms "the unreachables", have some of the highest levels of not seeking help and therefore could particularly benefit from digital interventions.

There is no one agreed-upon method in terms of the psychology behind reducing suicidal thoughts, and there are currently a range of styles and approaches being trialled for the emerging digital arena.

"Some of them are psychoeducation based, and are more about explaining and normalizing the problem so that people don't feel alone, as well as providing helpful information," Tye said.

"Some of them go beyond that and provide strategies that can change unhelpful thought patterns that might feed into depression or suicidal behaviour, or strategies to help with coping," she said.

Despite the myriad of approaches and efforts, more than eight people commit suicide in Australia every day and up to 70 percent of those at risk of suicide do not seek help.

In July of this year, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said suicide prevention was a key priority of the government, appointing a National Suicide Prevention Adviser to develop a unified approach to the issue.

However, there remains a "practice-to-implementation" gap between trials of these interventions completing, and the interventions then being made publicly available, Tye said.

"To realize the benefits of digital interventions we need to find ways to bridge this gap, and get these tools to the public to start addressing health service provision gaps," she said.

Tye hopes that the government's increased commitment to funding suicide prevention will help push effective interventions beyond the trial stage and into the hands of the people who need them, to save lives.