Suicide is sadly a leading cause of death in the U.S., and suicidal ideation is recognized as a risk factor that increases the risk of suicide. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of telehealth skyrocketed, and we are now beginning to learn more about the impact of telehealth services. A study recently published in JMIR Formative Research has examined how physician and provider telepsychiatry may influence suicidal ideation.
Researchers evaluated more than 8,500 adults based in the U.S., comparing 8,366 of those in a treatment group with 215 control participants. All participants were seeking treatment for anxiety, depression, or both disorders. The control group completed surveys related to suicidal ideation at the start of the study and 12 weeks later but did not receive care. The treatment group completed the same surveys but also received prescription medication and decision support through a digital platform over the 12-week period.
Suicidal ideation was similar in participants from the control and treatment groups at baseline. However, after the 12-week study period, suicidal ideation was lower in the treatment group compared to the control group that did not receive treatment. The authors also noted that suicidal ideation was lower in those who were older and in those with more education. However, females and those with advanced education beyond high school more likely to remit than males and those with less education.
The researchers conclude that antidepressant intervention deployed through a telehealth platform that is paired with antidepressant medication and decision support may help to reduce suicidal ideation. More research is needed to determine how best to use the power of telehealth to intervene when people are at an increased risk for suicide.
O’Callaghan E, Mahrer N, Belanger HG, et al. Telehealth-Supported Decision-making Psychiatric Care for Suicidal Ideation: Longitudinal Observational Study. JMIR Form Res. 2022;6(9):e37746. doi:10.2196/37746