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Web-based tool can keep suicidal thoughts away

New York: Like an apple a day can keep a doctor away, a web-based tool to help young doctors cope with stress can help the common man deal with high-pressure situations in life, say researchers led by an Indian-origin scientist.

According to Srijan Sen, faculty member with University of Michigan, web-based cognitive behavioural therapy (wCBT) can offer others in stressful situations a free, confidential way to prevent depression and suicidal thoughts.

Suicide prevention
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“This is the first study to show that wCBT can reduce suicidal ideation, or suicidal thoughts, in training doctors,” Sen said.

The free web-based tool offers a digital, streamlined form of the "talk therapy" that mental health professionals provide in office visits.

“It's called MoodGYM. This is a relatively risk-free intervention to help interns recognise and treat depression,” Sen noted.

Medical interns make an ideal population to study wCBT's effects because all of them experience a predictable sharp rise in stress and pressure with the start of their residency.

The findings suggest that such an tool could help others in high-stress, high-pressure positions.

Teaching hospitals and medical schools could use the new results to guide mental health programmes for interns, residents and medical students.

Or if nothing else, interns and others can use such web-based tools to help themselves, the authors noted.

According to first study author Connie Guille, this type of intervention is well-suited to this population because "the majority of interns won't seek traditional mental health treatment”.

Sen and Guille tested the app on 199 interns. All volunteered to take part, and half were randomly assigned to use the wCBT group.

Sen and colleagues are working to build on the success of the wCBT test by developing an app designed specifically for medical trainees.

“There's a good chance that it would be helpful for all populations undergoing some sort of stress and should be explored and tested in these populations in the future,” Sen concluded in a study recently published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

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