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A Study In This Month's Journal Of Nervous And Mental Disease Reveals Hope For Recovery From Suicidal Thinking And Treatment Resistant Mental Illness
Date:1/15/2009

and failed, to curb their depression, bipolar disorder, or psychosis. This population typically falls through the cracks of the mental health system - or overwhelms it with acute and repeated crises - often because psychiatrists themselves have little hope they can be helped. And it's a population in grave danger. In 2007, for example, more than forty percent of incoming Riggs patients had made a serious suicide attempt before admission.

"It's fair to say that many patients who come to us are sick unto death," says Dr. Eric Plakun, Austen Riggs director of admissions and professional relations. "They've been through all the state of the art treatments. And the treatments have not been helpful, so they are desperate and hopeless and deeply distrustful. They're often on a dozen or more medications. And they often have made one or another serious suicide attempt -- having jumped off some high place and survived, or having survived an overdose or even a gunshot wound."

According to the study, such radical progress didn't happen overnight. The median period for recovery was 7.2 years for self-mutilation; 7.3 years for other forms of self-harm (including suicide attempts); and 8.7 years for "suicidal ideation" ruminations on or thoughts about killing oneself.

Still, this news -- that recovery from such depths is not only possible, but, given time, very likely -- offers an empirical foundation for hope. "That's the most important thing," says J. Christopher Perry, a professor of psychiatry at McGill University in Montreal and the study's lead investigator, "the hope that comes from the knowledge that such a large proportion of people have not only improved in degrees, but have actually fully recovered."

Indeed, the Riggs study adds powerful new testimony to the mounting case that even the most desperate people with multiple diagnoses can be treated. In 2005, a McLean Hospital study found that
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SOURCE Austin Riggs Center
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