Study Finds Therapy Helps Prevent Suicide in the Military

Feb 16, 2015

Craig J. Bryan, Executive Director, National Center for Veterans Studies and Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Utah
Credit Courtesy photo

The University of Utah and the University of Memphis announced a new study Monday that suggests a way to substantially reduce the risk for suicide among military service members. The results were recently published in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

University of Utah clinical psychologist Craig Bryan served in the US Air Force in Iraq in 2009, and came face to face with multiple suicides. Bryan, who is also the executive director of the National Center for Veterans Studies, says he’s on a personal mission to prevent more suicide deaths.

“A lot of people have died to suicide,” Bryan says. “We’ve spent the better part of a decade trying to figure out what to do about this. This is the first study that really shows you can prevent suicidal behaviors in the military.”

Bryan was project manager for the military-funded study of 152 active duty army soldiers determined to be at high risk for suicide at Fort Carson, Colorado. Results revealed that soldiers receiving about 12 hours of cognitive-behavioral therapy were 60 percent less likely to make a suicide attempt over the next two years than those receiving usual treatment.

“The good news is, we can do something about this, we know we can, and now we just have to make sure it’s available,” he says.

Bryan says there are clinicians in Utah and around the country who are trained in this type of therapy but it’s not widely available or formally provided to military personnel. He says the next step is to make sure that service members have access to therapy that is proven to be effective.