Mitigating suicide risk during the COVID‑19 pandemic via telehealth using an intensive single session of “Brief Skills for Safer Living”

Rizvi, Sakina | $193,000

Ontario Unity Health Toronto 2020 CIHR Operating Grant

The COVID‑19 pandemic has swiftly increased suicide risk factors including anxiety, depression, isolation, loneliness, job loss and financial stress, as well as intensified a pre-existing lack of access to vital mental health services. The need for widely available resources to reduce risk factors for suicide across all communities is dire. A few studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of single-session in-person interventions for reducing suicide risk. However, these interventions may not adequately target some of the key deficits experienced among those with suicidal risk. To address this need, “Brief Skills for Safer Living” (Brief-SfSL), a single-session individual psychotherapy intervention, was developed for the proposed research. Brief-SfSL is adapted from the original SfSL group therapy that has been proven to reduce suicide risk through enhancing personal safety, emotional literacy, coping skills, relationships and problem solving. The proposed study will be the first to test the effectiveness of Brief-SfSL on suicidal ideation at 3 months, which will be delivered by a certified psychotherapist through an online face-to-face meeting in 75 participants with suicide risk. At the Brief-SfSL session, and at virtual follow-up visits 1-week, 1-month and 3-months later, participants will complete questionnaires that measure suicidal ideation, depression, anxiety, social connectedness, life functioning and treatment utilization. This will be the first study of Brief-SfSL in participants with suicide risk. This research will result in rapid improvement in suicide risk over 12 months, which will reduce healthcare utilization on an already over-stretched system. It will also provide evidence for an effective and accessible suicide risk intervention that can be offered rapidly and widely to urban and rural communities during and post-COVID-19 physical distancing restrictions.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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