Journal publishes results of pilot study on suicide intervention

Monday, March 19, 2012

A pilot study conducted by The Menninger Clinic shows for the first time that the Collaborative Assessment and Management of Suicidality (CAMS) approach to therapy can be effective in an inpatient setting. The study was published in the March 2012 issue of the journal Psychotherapy.

CAMS is an evidence-based system that assesses risk in suicidal patients and develops a therapeutic relationship that is needed for working with them. The system provides a method for therapists and patients, working side-by-side, to develop a shared understanding of the suicidal episode and to assess contributing factors, explore the patient's degree of risk for self harm and develop a plan for ensuring the patient's safety.


Each of the 20 patients who participated in the pilot study experienced significant decreases in depression, hopelessness, suicidal ideation, suicidal cognition and suicidal drivers. Pointing to the noteworthiness of the findings, all of the patients were at significant risk of suicide when admitted to Menninger; 16 had made suicide attempts two weeks prior to admission and none had responded to previous interventions, including psychotherapy, pharmacotherapy and hospitalizations.

The study's principal investigator, Thomas E. Ellis, PsyD, ABPP, is the director of psychology at The Menninger Clinic, one of the nation's leading psychiatric hospitals.


"These preliminary results show feasibility for full implementation of CAMS in an inpatient setting and suggest that the approach can effectively reduce not only current distress and suicidality but also risk of future suicidal episodes," said Ellis, who often blogs about suicide at

According to Ellis, the study is important since patients who are hospitalized for psychiatric reasons exhibit significantly elevated risk of suicide. Aside from this initial pilot study, Ellis noted there are few outcome studies or interventions designed for suicidal inpatients.


"Research like this CAMS study is important because there are a lot of unknowns when it comes to effective treatment and therapy methods for suicide," Ellis said. "Conversely, the suicide problem is growing and we know suicide is preventable. That's why at Menninger we believe if we can better understand what causes suicide ideation, then we can offer more effective treatment and work to decrease the suicide rate."