Background: People with serious mental illnesses (SMIs) are at exceptionally high risk for lifetime suicidal ideation and behavior compared with the general population. The transition period between urgent evaluation and ongoing care could provide an important setting for brief suicide-specific interventions for SMIs. To address this concern, this trial, SafeTy and Recovery Therapy (START), involves a brief suicide-specific cognitive behavioral intervention for SMIs that is augmented with mobile phone interactions.
Objective: The primary aim of this pilot trial is to evaluate the feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary effectiveness of the intervention.
Methods: A 6-month pilot trial with 70 participants with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder, and current active suicidal ideation were randomized to START or START with mobile augmentation. START consists of 4 weekly sessions addressing early warning signs and triggers, symptoms influencing suicidal thinking, and social relationships. Recovery planning is followed by biweekly telephone coaching. START with mobile augmentation includes personalized automated cognitive behavioral therapy scripts that build from in-person content. Participants were evaluated at baseline, 4 weeks (end of in-person sessions), 12 weeks (end of telephone coaching), and 24 weeks. In addition to providing point estimates of feasibility and acceptability, the primary outcome of the trial was the change in severity of suicidal ideation as measured with the Scale for Suicide Ideation (SSI) and secondary outcome included the rate of outpatient engagement.
Results: The trial is ongoing. Feasibility and acceptability across conditions will be assessed using t tests or Mann-Whitney tests or chi-square tests. The reduction of SSI over time will be assessed using hierarchical linear models.
Conclusions: The design considerations and results of this trial may be informative for adapted suicide prevention in psychotic disorders in applied community settings.