Preliminary Research Reveals That Exercising Can Help Persons In A Suicide Crisis

Preliminary Research Reveals That Exercising Can Help Persons In A Suicide Crisis
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Preliminary data suggest that physical activity can reduce discomfort in those experiencing a suicide crisis, according to a recent study that appeared in the Journal of Psychiatric Research. Participants in a psychiatric short-stay unit reported decreased despondency after two days of 30 minutes of exercise.

People in mental health crises might get immediate help at psychiatric short stay units (SSUs). Hospitalization for a shorter period of time (up to 72 hours) is available in many industrialized nations to help people deal with their suicidal thoughts and feelings, stabilize their symptoms, and get connected to ongoing care. Studies evaluating the safety and effectiveness of mental SSUs have developed as their prevalence has increased.

The exercise was investigated by Fabien D. Legrand and colleagues as an augmentation to standard care for SSU patients with suicidal ideation. Multiple studies have shown that encouraging people with severe mental illness to engage in physical activity helps reduce their discomfort levels. However, there have been very few randomized controlled trials investigating the impact of exercise on suicidality, and none have involved high-risk SSU patients.

Legrand and his coworkers used a randomized controlled trial on a subset of patients at a mental SSU in northeastern France for their pilot investigation. Twelve female patients, ranging in age from 18 to 65, were recently diagnosed with suicidal ideation or attempts.

Participants filled out self-report questionnaires at the time of intake that measured despondency, a major predictor of suicide mortality, and optimism, a preventive factor against suicide plan attempts. In addition to their regular treatment, subjects participated in either two exercise programs or two sedentary activities during a two-day period.

The participants in the exercise category walked or jogged for 30 minutes twice a week in the park adjacent to the short-term care facility. Sedentary patients spent two 30-minute periods of time alone in their hospital room doing things like reading or playing video games. Participants retook measures of hopelessness and optimism post-intervention and carried out the Subjective Treatment Satisfaction Survey (STSS) to gauge their level of contentment with and appreciation for the intervention’s efficacy.

Those who took part in the exercise programs reported significant reductions in feelings of hopelessness following the intervention, whereas those who did not exercise did not. The individuals in both groups maintained constant levels of optimism throughout the research.


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Anna Daniels

Anna is an avid blogger with an educational background in medicine and mental health. She is a generalist with many other interests including nutrition, women's health, astronomy and photography. In her free time from work and writing, Anna enjoys nature walks, reading, and listening to jazz and classical music.

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