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Study Finds Cognitive Therapy Helpful in Treating Patients Suffering from Depression

Five years ago, World Health Organization statistics showed that that every 40 seconds someone some where committed suicide. The organization says suicide rates jumped 45 percent between 1955 and the year 2000.

A WHO study found that mental disorders, particularly depression and substance abuse, are associated with more than 90 percent of all cases of suicide. What's more, people who have attempted suicide are at a high risk for attempting it again. Now there's a new study about a form of treatment that appears to cut that risk by half.

Cognitive therapy is a type of psychotherapy that teaches patients how their thoughts color and even distort their picture of their lives.

Sometimes people who experience a job loss, divorce, death of a loved one, or even the birth of a child feel depressed and so hopeless they may commit suicide. One hundred and twenty people who experienced feelings of hopelessness and had attempted suicide participated in a study led by Dr. Gregory Brown at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Brown wanted to find out if getting patients to recognize how they think could help prevent suicide. "The point of the therapy is to see if we could address the patients' hopelessness which occurs prior to a suicide attempt and help them to be better problem solvers so that they won't make another suicide attempt," he said.

The study is reported in the August 3rd edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Of the 120 participants, about half received medication, outpatient therapy, and addiction treatment, if required, Dr. Brown says the other half received this care plus some cognitive therapy sessions that directly focused on reducing suicidal behavior. "The most important finding was that the patients who received the cognitive therapy were 50 percent less likely to make a repeat suicide attempt."

Of the patients who received cognitive therapy, fewer than 25 percent made a repeat suicide attempt compared to more than 40 percent in the other group. Those who received cognitive therapy also felt significantly more hopeful and less depressed.

Another study, this one at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, found that people who suffer from recurring depression could often recognize the warning signs. They can then take action to prevent it, lessen its impact or shorten the length of the depression.