Group treatments for individuals at risk for suicide: A PRISMA scoping review (ScR)

Sarah R. Sullivan, Maureen F. Monahan, Emily L. Mitchell, Angela Page Spears, Samantha Walsh, Jake R. Szeszko, Molly Gromatsky, Barbara Stanley, Marianne Goodman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: This PRISMA scoping review explored worldwide research of interventions for suicide prevention delivered within a group setting. Research on group treatments underscores the importance of peer connection in diminishing social isolation and increasing social support. Additional benefits of group treatment include cost efficiency and maximization of staff time. However, the clinical outcomes of group treatments with individuals at risk for suicide are less understood and under researched. Aim: This scoping review had two objectives: 1) To identify existing group treatments where suicidal thoughts and behaviors are openly discussed; 2) To examine the outcomes of these identified treatments, with special attention to treatment integrity. Method: To address these aims the authors searched Medline (Ovid), Embase (Ovid), and PsycINFO (Ovid), on November 25, 2020. At the Full Text stage, articles were included that were peer reviewed, described a suicide specific group intervention and reported suicide specific outcomes. An additional requirement was open dialogue of suicide in the group intervention. Results: Only ten research reports of suicide-specific group treatments were identified in our PRISMA-ScR. In spite of many differences in setting, population, length, and frequency of sessions, all ten groups reported improvements in varying aspects of suicide symptoms. The only adverse impacts were reported by two studies wherein two (of 92) participants attempted suicide and a small number (7%) of adolescents reported feeling triggered with suicidal thinking during a session. Despite our focus on empirical data in this review, the methodological rigor of the studies evaluated was limited. Conclusion: Despite the paucity of group treatment research in which suicidal thoughts and behaviors are openly discussed, the outcomes of these treatments were promising in decreasing suicide risk. These results may be due to unfounded fears of contagion. Further implications of these findings are considered along with limitations that may have excluded clinical work from meeting inclusion criteria for this review. Nonetheless, this evidence suggests that, suicide-focused groups have great potential for prevention of suicidal symptoms and should be further expanded in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Article number114108
JournalPsychiatry Research
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • Cohesion
  • Group Treatments
  • Suicide Intervention' Treatment Integrity


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