Suicide risk management in research on internet-based interventions for depression: A synthesis of the current state and recommendations for future research

Lasse Sander*, Katharina Gerhardinger, Eleanor Bailey, Jo Robinson, Jiaxi Lin, Pim Cuijpers, Charlotte Mühlmann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Background: The number of studies examining internet-based interventions (IBIs) for depression is increasing. Although many individuals with depression experience suicidal ideation, there is only insufficient information available on how to manage and support individuals at risk of suicide in IBI trials. Here, we examined the current practice regarding the management of individuals experiencing suicidal thoughts or behaviors in studies of IBIs for depression. Methods: Information pertaining to the management of suicidality was extracted from 24 studies. Additionally, researchers in the field completed a questionnaire (n = 13) before being interviewed (n = 11) about their procedures and considerations regarding the management of suicidality. Results: In most trials (N = 17; 71%), individuals at risk of suicide were excluded based on varying criteria. N = 7 studies used structured interviews and N = 5 studies used single items of self-report questionnaires for assessing suicidality. The nature and degree of support provided to individuals at risk of suicide varied and only one intervention comprised suicide-specific content. Limitations: Most experts referred to research on interventions with some level of human support (e.g. written feedback) which might limit the representativeness of the results of the interviews for unguided interventions. Conclusions: Suicidality is often treated more as an exclusion criterion rather than a treatable condition in research on IBIs for depression. This paper provides an overview of the current practice and gives recommendations for the design of future trials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)676-683
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Early online date12 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2020



  • Depression
  • E-Health
  • Internet interventions
  • Review
  • Suicidal ideation

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