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Brief Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Reduces Suicidal Ideation among Veterans with Chronic Illness

Apri 1, 2020


Takeaway: Exposure to a brief evidence-based psychotherapy intervention in primary care may significantly reduce distress and suicidal ideation among Veterans with chronic illness, with effects enduring over a long period of time, thus potentially reducing future suicide-related distress and/or attempts among a high-risk Veteran population. The brief cognitive behavioral therapy (bCBT) intervention will target implementation in VISNs 16 (South Central VA Health Care Network) and 17 (VA Heart of Texas Health Care Network).

More than 70% of Veterans have a chronic health condition, and those with chronic medical illness and comorbid mental health disorders are at particular risk for suicide in primary care settings. A brief cognitive behavioral therapy (bCBT) intervention delivered by VA mental health providers in primary care settings is effective for depression, anxiety, and improves physical health quality of life. Investigators in the current study used data from an HSR&D trial to determine the effect of bCBT on suicidal ideation among Veterans with cardiopulmonary chronic illness receiving mental health treatment in a VA primary care setting. Findings show:

  • bCBT in primary care reduced suicidal ideation in Veterans with chronic medical illness. Veterans in the bCBT group were less likely to have high suicidal ideation than Veterans in the enhanced usual care group post-treatment and at 8-month follow-up after accounting for baseline suicidal ideation.

Work has begun to implement this intervention, beginning inVISNs 16 (South Central VA Health Care Network) and 17 (VA Heart of Texas Health Care Network).

CITATION: Ecker A, Johnson A, Sansgiry S, Fletcher T, Hundt N, Petersen N, Sweeney A, Chaison A, York-Ward K, Kauth M, Kunik M, and Cully J. Brief Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Reduces Suicidal Ideation in Veterans with Chronic Illnesses. General Hospital Psychiatry. May-June 2019;58:27-32.


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