BMJ Open 3:e002886 doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2013-002886
  • Public health
    • Research

The effect of a web-based depression intervention on suicide ideation: secondary outcome from a randomised controlled trial in a helpline

  1. Tara Donker1
  1. 1School of Medicine, The Black Dog Institute, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  2. 2Centre for Mental Health Research, Australian National University, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
  3. 3Orygen Youth Health, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Professor Helen Christensen; h.christensen{at}
  • Received 15 March 2013
  • Revised 26 April 2013
  • Accepted 20 May 2013
  • Published 28 June 2013


Objectives The effect of web-based interventions for depression on suicide ideation in callers to helplines is not known. The aim of this study was to determine if web-based Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) with and without telephone support is effective in reducing suicide ideation in callers to a helpline compared with treatment as usual (TAU). A secondary aim was to examine the factors that predict change in suicide ideation. Putative predictors included level of baseline depression, suicide behaviour, baseline anxiety and type of intervention.

Design Randomised controlled trial.

Setting Lifeline, Australia's 24 h telephone counselling service participants: 155 callers to a national helpline service with moderate-to-high psychological distress.

Interventions Participants were recruited and randomised to receive either 6 weeks of internet CBT plus weekly telephone follow-up; internet CBT only; weekly telephone follow-up only or a wait-list TAU control group.

Primary and secondary outcome measures Suicidal ideation was measured using four items from the 28-item General Health Questionnaire. Predictors of change in ideation were tested using logistic regression analysis.

Results Regardless of the intervention condition, participants showed significant reductions in suicidal ideation over 12 months (p<0.001). Higher baseline suicidal behaviour decreased the odds of remission of suicidal ideation at postintervention (OR 0.409, p<0.001). However, change in depression over the course of the interventions was associated with improvement in suicide ideation (OR 1.165, p<0.001).

Conclusions Suicide ideation declines with and without proactive intervention. Improvements in depression are associated with the resolution of suicide ideation. Specific interventions focusing on suicide ideation should be further investigated.

Trial registration ISRCTN93903959.

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