‘Most hopeful’ suicide research

Short-term cognitive behavioral therapy dramatically reduces suicide attempts among at-risk military personnel, according to findings from a research study that included UT Health Science Center investigators.

The two-year study, funded by the Army’s Military Operational Medicine Research Program, was conducted at Fort Carson, Colorado. It involved 152 active-duty soldiers who had either attempted suicide or had been determined to be at high risk for suicide. The study evaluated the effectiveness of a brief cognitive-behavioral therapy in preventing future suicide attempts.

Soldiers receiving cognitive-behavioral therapy were 60 percent less likely to make a suicide attempt during the 24-month follow-up than those receiving standard treatment. The results were published by The American Journal of Psychiatry.

The findings are particularly encouraging given that rates of active-duty service members receiving psychiatric diagnoses increased by more than 60 percent during a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Rates of suicides and suicide attempts rose in comparable numbers.

“The significant increase in military suicides over the past decade is a national tragedy,” said Alan Peterson, Ph.D., a co-investigator on the study who is a professor of psychiatry and director of the military-focused STRONG STAR Consortium. “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.”

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