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Intensive Crisis Intervention Therapy Associated With Reduced Suicidality In Adolescents


Health officials say when a suicidal adolescent cannot safely remain in the community, traditional intervention often involves a lengthy psychiatric hospitalization. But a lack of appropriate facilities across the country combined with an increasing demand for inpatient psychiatric services means many critically at-risk youth are unable to get the help they need. A new three-day therapeutic model developed in Columbus seeks to change that. Mike Foley reports.

The intensive crisis intervention model grew out of a partnership between the Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board of Franklin County and Nationwide Children’s Hospital. It relies on cognitive behavioral therapy, focusing on the responses to stress that can lead to suicidal behavior. The therapy begins with a psychiatrist and crisis clinician conducting assessments, determining what led to the crisis, and developing a treatment plan. The young person then participates in as many as three individual and two family sessions daily to develop successful responses to stressful situations. When families and clinicians agree the adolescent can safely return home, the third phase involves safety planning and linking the family to community care. The three phases are designed to take place in three days.

The model also encourages family members to stay in the Youth Crisis Stabilization Unit overnight with their child. Researchers say a recent study involving 50 kids who experienced suicidal thoughts or behavior found the therapy to be a promising alternative to lengthy hospitalization. They say the findings also revealed significant reductions in suicidal ideation at a three-month follow-up. The study's authors acknowledge that a three-day therapy plan does not provide enough time to remedy everything, but say the intensive therapy can help the patient and family understand the crisis and build coping mechanisms. 

Health officials say if you or your child needs immediate help due to having suicidal thoughts, go to your local emergency room immediately, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. If you believe an overdose has occurred, call the national Poison Help hotline 1-800-222-1222.   

Here are some additional links to services and research: