MSRC News Details

Military Suicide Research Consortium Advances the Field with Recent Accomplishments

Suicide is one of the leading causes of death among U.S. military Service Members and Veterans. The Department of Defense (DoD) has funded a number of studies proposing to investigate methods to better identify who is at risk for, and to decrease the likelihood of, suicidal behavior. The Denver Research Institute and Florida State University received funding from the Military Operational Medicine Research Program through the fiscal year 2008 U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC) Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) to create a consortium with the goal of integrating and synchronizing DoD and civilian efforts to implement a multidisciplinary approach to suicide prevention. These awards, which comprise the Military Suicide Research Consortium (MSRC), are led by Drs. Peter Gutierrez and Thomas Joiner.

The MSRC-funded research aims to enhance the military's ability to quickly identify those at risk for suicide and provide effective evidence-based prevention and treatment strategies. Twenty-one studies have been funded by the MSRC in addition to several Postdoctoral Pilot Projects and Dissertation Completion Awards. These studies are being conducted at numerous VA and military installations across the country and cover a broad spectrum of the research continuum, ranging from etiological, to prevention/screening, and treatment. Populations being studied include Service Members, Veterans, and family members of Service Members and Veterans.

The MSRC has developed a database to capture Common Data Elements (CDEs) collected in each of the funded studies. This database allows for secondary analysis of aggregate data across all funded studies. Additionally, the MSRC is specifically identified in "The National Research Action Plan for Improving Access to Mental Health Services for Veterans, Service Members, and Military Families," a plan developed by multiple Federal agencies in response to an Executive Order issued by the President, as playing a role in achieving the vision for suicide prevention research.

Three of the funded studies are now complete and have yielded important results. Of note, a Virtual Hope Box mobile application was released for free download in Android and iOS marketplaces in 2014 as a result of Dr. Nigel Bush's pilot work. A randomized clinical trial is now underway to refine and evaluate the effectiveness of the mobile application. Additionally, results from Dr. Julie Cerel's work related to suicide bereavement showed that almost half of Veterans reported lifetime exposure to suicide. Conclusions drawn from Dr. Cerel's work include that: (1) suicide exposure confers psychiatric risk in Veterans, (2) perceptions of closeness to decedents may increase risk in suicide-exposed individuals, and (3) multiple exposures to suicide and traumatic death may lead to significant suicide risk. Work conducted by Drs. Holm-Denoma and Witte, using MSRC CDEs, showed strong evidence that serious suicide risk is a discrete category. As work on the ongoing studies continues, other important findings are expected to emerge.

Original Article