Military personnel who receive cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in the short-term may reduce their probability of attempting suicide, according to a recent research from the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio (UTHSCSA). The study conducted at Fort Carson, Colo, focused on patients already at risk or who had attempted suicide before and revealed the effectiveness of the therapy.
For two years, UTHSCSA researchers analyzed data of 152 active-duty soldiers who were classified as high risk or who had already tried to kill themselves. Patients received CBT in order to prevent future suicide attempts with researchers assessing this method’s effectiveness, observing that patients who received CBT were 60% less likely to commit suicide than soldiers who underwent the standard treatment.
The findings of the study entitled “Brief Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Effects on Post-Treatment Suicide Attempts in a Military Sample: Results of a Randomized Clinical Trial With 2-Year Follow-Up,” which were recently published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, are especially important since the number of active-duty service members who were diagnosed with psychiatric conditions increased over 60% during the Iraq and Afghanistan war, as well as suicide and suicide attempts.
“The significant increase in military suicides over the past decade is a national tragedy,” said the co-investigator on the study, Alan Peterson, PhD, a professor of psychiatry in the School of Medicine at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio and director of the military Consortium STRONG STAR. “The Department of Defense has responded by investing significant resources into military suicide research, and the findings from this study may be the most important and most hopeful to date. To see a 60 percent reduction in suicide attempts among at-risk active-duty soldiers after a brief intervention is truly exciting.”
The president of the University of Memphis, M. David Rudd, PhD, co-led the study and stated that he expects the results to improve the lives of American soldiers. The clinical psychologist at the University of Utah and executive director of the National Center for Veterans Studies, Craig Bryan, Psy.D., who also co-led the study added that “the treatment is focused on how to manage stress more effectively, how to think in more helpful ways and how to remember what is meaningful in life. In essence, the soldier learns how to live a life worth living in a very short period of time.”
“This landmark achievement is the result of several years’ effort by researchers at three universities, the Department of Defense and an exceptional team of Army behavioral health providers at Fort Carson,” continued Bryan. “Most importantly, we extend our sincere gratitude to those soldiers who volunteered to participate in this study. Although these soldiers did not know if they would personally benefit from participation, they nonetheless volunteered with the hope that the outcome would benefit other soldiers and service members. I think we can confidently say that they have achieved their objective.”
In addition to Peterson, Bryan and Rudd, other authors include Stacey Young-McCaughan, RN, PhD, and Jim Mintz, PhD, who are researchers from the STRONG STAR Consortium. The international research group funded the study, with funds from its program focused on the development and examination of diagnosis, prevention and treatment methods for combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder and diseases associated with it.