Suicide Life Threat Behav. 2002 Winter;32(4):428-40.
To assess whether writing with cognitive change or exposure instructions reduces depression or suicidality, 121 undergraduates screened for suicidality wrote for 20 minutes on 4 days over 2 weeks. They were randomly assigned to reinterpret or to write and rewrite traumatic events/emotions, or to write about innocuous topics. The three groups (N = 98) who completed pre-, post-, and 6-week follow-up were not different on suicidality or depression. All subjects reported fewer automatic negative thoughts over the 2 weeks; they also reported higher self-regard but more health center visits at follow-up. Suicidal thoughts may be more resistant than physical health to writing interventions.
Violence Vict. 2003 Oct;18(5):569-80.
Deters PB1, Range LM.
To see if writing about their trauma lessened PTSD and related symptoms, 57 undergraduates, previously screened for traumatic experiences, wrote for 15 minutes on 4 days across 2 weeks about either their trauma or a trivial topic. They reported PTSD, impact, suicide ideas, dissociation, and depression pre-, post-, and at 6-week follow-up testing. Trauma and trivial writers were not different. Surprisingly, at follow-up everyone reported less severe PTSD symptoms, impact, and dissociation, and fewer health visits, but about the same suicidal ideation and depression. On PTSD symptoms and impact, the pattern of improvement was different: Those writing about trauma got worse at posttesting, but improved to better than their initial state by follow-up. Those writing about a trivial topic got better by posttesting, and held that position at follow-up. In this project, writing seemed to reduce PTSD symptoms regardless of whether it concerned the trauma or what they ate for lunch.
Violence Vict. 2005 Dec;20(6):717-28.
Antal HM1, Range LM.
Writing often helps people deal with trauma. To see if writing about childhood physical or sexual abuse, or positive experiences, helps, psychology undergraduates wrote for 20 minutes on 4 days about their abuse, a positive experience, or a trivial topic. Among 102 who began and 85 who completed pre-, post-, and 4-week follow-up measures of depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideas, abuse writers were more likely to discontinue, and positive writers were more depressed and anxious. Compared to pretest, all completers were less depressed, anxious, and suicidal at follow-up, but nonsignificantly different in health visits. Completers who wrote about abuse rated the study as more valuable than did those who wrote about positive experiences. College students who wrote about childhood physical or sexual abuse benefited from any type of structured writing assignment (where they interacted with a researcher and got extra credit) in terms of reduced anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideas, but they found value in writing about their trauma more than writing about innocuous topics.