Suicidal patients are usually given drugs, and powerful ones at that. As most people who attempt suicide will do so again, drug therapy is intended to suppress the patient's feelings and keep him passive.
It's a brave psychiatrist who dispenses with the drugs, and instead tries to engage directly with the patient. And yet when he does, it's an approach that works remarkably well, and over longer periods it can be even more effective than drugs, as a new study has discovered.
A group of 120 patients who had attempted suicide in the previous 48 hours were assigned either to standard drug therapy or to a course of cognitive behaviour therapy. Over the next 18 months 13 participants - or 24 per cent - in the cognitive group attempted suicide, compared with 23 patients - or 42 per cent - in the drugs group. It was also reckoned that those who had had cognitive therapy were 50 per cent less likely to attempt suicide than someone who had been given drugs.
These results probably surprise nobody except those psychiatrists who persist with the belief that creating a zombie-like patient is some sort of victory over deep depression.
* A range of drug-free approaches to depression and other mental problems are explored in the WDDTY Guide to Mental Health. To order your copy, click here: http://www.wddty.com/shop