Year: 2020 Source: JAMA Network Open. (2020). 3(4), e203933. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.3933 SIEC No: 20200356

Importance  Suicidal ideation is a widespread phenomenon. However, many individuals at risk for suicide do not seek treatment, which might be addressed by providing low-threshold, internet-based self-help interventions.

Objective  To investigate whether internet-based self-help interventions directly targeting suicidal ideation or behavior are associated with reductions in suicidal ideation.

Data Sources  A systematic search of PsycINFO, MEDLINE, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), and the Centre for Research Excellence of Suicide Prevention (CRESP) databases for trials from inception to April 6, 2019, was performed, supplemented by reference searches. Search strings consisted of various search terms related to the concepts of internet, suicide, and randomized clinical trials.

Study Selection  Two independent researchers reviewed titles, abstracts, and full texts. Randomized clinical trials evaluating the effectiveness of internet-based self-help interventions to reduce suicidal ideation were included. Interventions were eligible if they were based on psychotherapeutic elements. Trials had to report a quantitative measure of a suicide-specific outcome. Mobile-based and gatekeeper interventions were excluded; no further restrictions were placed on participant characteristics or date of publication.

Data Extraction and Synthesis  This study followed the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses (PRISMA) reporting guidelines. Risk of bias was evaluated using the Cochrane Risk of Bias Tool. Standardized mean differences were calculated using a random-effects model.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Suicidal ideation was the a priori primary outcome.

Results  Six unique eligible trials (1567 unique participants; 1046 [66.8%] female; pooled mean [SD] age, 36.2 [12.5] years) were included in the systematic review and meta-analysis. All identified interventions were internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy (iCBT). Participants assigned to the iCBT condition experienced a significantly reduced suicidal ideation compared with controls following intervention in all 6 trials (standardized mean difference, −0.29; 95% CI, −0.40 to −0.19; P < .001). Heterogeneity was low (I2 = 0%). The effect appeared to be maintained at follow-up in 4 trials (standardized mean difference, −0.18; 95% CI, −0.34 to −0.02; P = .03; I2 = 36%). Studies did not report sufficient data on completed suicides and suicide attempts to assess potential associations.

Conclusions and Relevance  These results show that iCBT interventions are associated with significant reductions in suicidal ideation compared with control conditions. Considering their high scalability, iCBT interventions have the potential to reduce suicide mortality. Future research should assess the effect of these digital health interventions on suicidal behavior and identify moderators and mediators to advance understanding of the mechanisms of effectiveness of these interventions.