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Study Shows Promise of Crisis Response Planning in Reducing Suicide Risk for Veterans with PTSD

Airman 1st Class Thomas Riojas and Airman 1st Class Dylan Schaeffer, both assigned to the 11th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, gather gifts to bring to homeless veterans at the Safe Haven shelter in Shreveport, Louisiana, December 19, 2018. Riojas and Schaeffer, along with other Airmen from the 11th AMU and the 307th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and members of Volunteers of America North Louisiana, brought the gifts and prepared a meal for a Christmas party at the shelter for the veterans. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Maxwell Daigle)

Columbus, Ohio (February 14, 2024) – A new study conducted by researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center offers promising results for veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and suicidal thoughts.

The study found that “crisis response planning” (CRP), a brief intervention, significantly reduced suicidal thoughts among veterans receiving intensive therapy for PTSD. This type of therapy, called “cognitive processing therapy” (CPT), is typically delivered over a short period of time.

“This study is the first to show that crisis response planning can quickly reduce suicide risk when used during intensive therapy for PTSD,” said lead investigator Craig J. Bryan, a clinical psychologist and professor at Ohio State. “This finding offers an important tool for mental health professionals working with veterans at high risk of suicide.”

The study, published in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders, involved 157 U.S. military members and veterans with PTSD. Participants were randomly assigned to receive either CRP or a different safety planning intervention before starting their CPT program.

The results showed that:

  • CRP significantly reduced the severity of suicidal thoughts compared to the other intervention.
  • Veterans who received CRP were less likely to report attempting suicide.
  • CRP is a low-cost and easily implemented intervention.

“These findings are encouraging and suggest that CRP can be a valuable tool for reducing suicide risk among veterans with PTSD,” said Justin Baker, a co-author of the study and clinical director of the STRIVE Program at Ohio State. “Further research is needed to see if this intervention can be effective in other settings and patient populations.”

Based on these promising results, the STRIVE Program has received a new grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to further develop and test CRP among high-risk military members.

This study highlights the ongoing efforts to find effective interventions for veterans struggling with PTSD and suicidal thoughts. The use of CRP as a readily available and quickly implemented tool, combined with intensive therapy, could offer a valuable step towards improving mental health outcomes for this vulnerable population.