According to Traci Pedersen writing in psychcentral.com, a new study shows that lithium treatment reduces the risk of suicide in patients with bipolar disorder or depression by more than 60%, compared to placebo. Interestingly, although there is some evidence that lithium decreases aggression and perhaps impulsivity, which may be another mechanism mediating the antisuicidal effect, the study conducted by Andrea Cipriani, Keith Hawton, Sarah Stockton and John R Geddes found that no clear benefits were observed for lithium compared with placebo in preventing deliberate self harm.
Crucially, Cipriani et al‘s study published in the prestigious British Medical Journal, demonstrated that the duration of lithium treatment is an important factor in avoiding suicide. In effect, the researchers concluded that lithium is most effective when used as a long-term treatment for both ‘unipolar’ depression and bipolar disorder, although alternative medications may be appropriate as shorter-term therapies.
Pederson’s article – Lithium Still Tops in Reducing Suicide Risk in Depression, Bipolar Disorder – can be accessed here.
You can also read Cipriani et al‘s BMJ article – Lithium in the prevention of suicide in mood disorders: updated systematic review and meta-analysis – here.