Suicide is a leading cause of death. New data indicate alarming increases in suicide death rates, yet no treatments with replicated efficacy or effectiveness exist for youths with self-harm presentations, a high-risk group for both fatal and nonfatal suicide attempts. We addressed this gap by evaluating Safe Alternatives for Teens and Youths (SAFETY), a cognitive-behavioral, dialectical behavior therapy−informed family treatment designed to promote safety.
Randomized controlled trial for adolescents (12−18 years of age) with recent (past 3 months) suicide attempts or other self-harm. Youth were randomized either to SAFETY or to treatment as usual enhanced by parent education and support accessing community treatment (E-TAU). Outcomes were evaluated at baseline, 3 months, or end of treatment period, and were followed up through 6 to 12 months. The primary outcome was youth-reported incident suicide attempts through the 3-month follow-up.
Survival analyses indicated a significantly higher probability of survival without a suicide attempt by the 3-month follow-up point among SAFETY youths (cumulative estimated probability of survival without suicide attempt = 1.00, standard error = 0), compared to E-TAU youths (cumulative estimated probability of survival without suicide attempt = 0.67, standard error = 0.14; z = 2.45, p = .02, number needed to treat = 3) and for the overall survival curves (Wilcoxon χ21 = 5.81, p = .02). Sensitivity analyses using parent report when youth report was unavailable and conservative assumptions regarding missing data yielded similar results for 3-month outcomes.
Results support the efficacy of SAFETY for preventing suicide attempts in adolescents presenting with recent self-harm. This is the second randomized trial to demonstrate that treatment including cognitive-behavioral and family components can provide some protection from suicide attempt risk in these high-risk youths.