HealthDay News — Short-term cognitive-behavioral therapy can lead to fewer suicide attempts among at-risk U.S. soldiers, a new study suggests.

Mental illness diagnoses among active-duty U.S. military personnel rose by more than 60% during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with a similar increase in rates of suicide and suicide attempts, the researchers wrote.

“The significant increase in military suicides over the past decade is a national tragedy,” said study co-author Alan Peterson, PhD, in a University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio news release. He is a professor of psychiatry at the university’s School of Medicine.

The study included 152 active-duty soldiers who had attempted suicide or were considered to be at high risk for suicide. Over two years of follow-up, soldiers who received the therapy were 60% less likely to attempt suicide than those who received standard treatment, the researchers reported in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

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“The treatment is focused on how to manage stress more effectively, how to think in more helpful ways and how to remember what is meaningful in life,” study co-leader Craig Bryan, PsyD, a clinical psychologist at the University of Utah and executive director of the National Center for Veterans Studies, said in the release. “In essence, the soldier learns how to live a life worth living in a very short period of time.”


Peterson AL, et al. Brief Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Effects on Post-Treatment Suicide Attempts in a Military Sample: Results of a Randomized Clinical Trial With 2-Year Follow-Up. Am J Psychiatry. 2015;