Library of Research Articles on Veterans and CIH Therapies
Library of Research Articles on Veterans and Complementary and Integrative Health Therapies and Chiropractic Care
January 2021 Edition
Forkus SR, Breines JG, Weiss NH. Morally injurious experiences and mental health: The moderating role of self-compassion. Psychol Trauma. 2019 Sep;11(6):630-638. doi:
Military veterans are at heightened risk for developing mental and behavioral health problems. Morally injurious combat experiences have recently gained empirical and clinical attention following the increased rates of mental and behavioral health problems observed in this population.
Extending extant research, the current investigation assessed the relationship between morally injurious experiences and mental and behavioral health outcomes. Furthermore, it examined the potential protective role of self-compassion in these relationships.
Participants were 203 military veterans (M age = 35.08 years, 77.30% male) who completed online questionnaires.
Analyses indicated that self-compassion significantly moderated the relationship between exposure to morally injurious experiences and posttraumatic stress disorder, depression severity, and deliberate self-harm versatility.
These results highlight the potential clinical utility of self-compassion in military mental health, particularly in the context of morally injurious experiences. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).
Kelley ML, Bravo AJ, Davies RL, Hamrick HC, Vinci C, Redman JC. Moral injury and suicidality among combat-wounded veterans: The moderating effects of social connectedness and self-compassion. Psychol Trauma. 2019 Sep;11(6):621-629. doi:
Among combat veterans, moral injury (i.e., the guilt, shame, inability to forgive one's self and others, and social withdrawal associated with one's involvement in events that occurred during war or other missions) is associated with a host of negative mental health symptoms, including suicide. To better inform and tailor prevention and treatment efforts among veterans, the present study examined several potential risk (i.e., overidentification and self-judgment) and protective (i.e., self-kindness, mindfulness, common humanity, and social connectedness) variables that may moderate the association between moral injury and suicidality.
Participants were 189 combat wounded veterans (96.8% male; mean age = 43.14 years) who had experienced one or more deployments (defined as 90 days or more). Nearly all participants reported a service-connected disability (n = 176, 93.1%) and many had received a Purple Heart (n = 163, 86.2%).
Within a series of moderation models, we found 3 statistically significant moderation effects. Specifically, the association between self-directed moral injury and suicidality strengthened at higher levels of overidentification, that is, a tendency to overidentify with one's failings and shortcomings. In addition, the association between other-directed moral injury and suicidality weakened at higher levels of mindfulness and social connectedness.
These findings provide insight on risk and protective factors that strengthen (risk factor) or weaken (protective factor) the association between moral injury and suicidality in combat-wounded veterans. Taken together, mindfulness, social connectedness, and overidentification are relevant to understand the increased/decreased vulnerability of veterans to exhibit suicidality when experiencing moral injury. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).
Kline A, Chesin M, Latorre M, Miller R, St Hill L, Shcherbakov A, King A, Stanley B, Weiner MD, Interian A. Rationale and study design of a trial of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for preventing suicidal behavior (MBCT-S) in military veterans. Contemp Clin Trials. 2016 Sep;50:245-52. doi: 10.1016/j.cct.2016.08.015. Epub 2016 Aug 31. PMID: 27592123.
Although suicide ranks 10th as a cause of death in the United States, and 1st among active military personnel, there are surprisingly few evidence-based therapies addressing suicidality, and development of new treatments is limited. This paper describes a clinical trial testing a novel therapy for reducing suicide risk in military veterans. The intervention, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Preventing Suicide Behavior (MBCT-S), is a 10-week group intervention adapted from an existing treatment for depression (Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy - MBCT). MBCT-S incorporates the Safety Planning Intervention, which is currently implemented throughout the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) for veterans at high suicide risk.
MBCT-S is being tested in a VHA setting using an intention-to-treat, two-group randomized trial design in which 164 high suicide risk veterans are randomized to either VHA Treatment As Usual (TAU; n=82) or TAU+MBCT-S (n=82). Our primary outcome measure, suicide-related event, defined to include suicide preparatory behaviors, self-harm behavior with suicidal or indeterminate intent, suicide-related hospitalizations and Emergency Department (ED) visits, will be measured through five assessments administered by blinded assessors between baseline and 12months post-baseline. We will measure suicide attempts and suicide deaths as a secondary outcome, because of their anticipated low incidence during the study period. Secondary outcomes also include severity of suicidal ideation, hopelessness and depression.
This study has the potential to significantly enhance the quality and efficiency of VHA care for veterans at suicide risk and to substantially improve the quality of life for veterans and their families.
Serpa JG, Taylor SL, Tillisch K. Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) reduces anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation in veterans. Med Care. 2014 Dec;52(12 Suppl 5):S19-24. doi: 10.1097/MLR.0000000000000202. PubMed PMID: 25397818.
Anxiety, depression, and pain are major problems among veterans, despite the availability of standard medical options within the Veterans Health Administration. Complementary and alternative approaches for these symptoms have been shown to be appealing to veterans. One such complementary and alternative approach is mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), a brief course that teaches mindfulness meditation with demonstrated benefits for mood disorders and pain.
We prospectively collected data on MBSR's effectiveness among 79 veterans at an urban Veterans Health Administration medical facility. The MBSR course had 9 weekly sessions that included seated and walking meditations, gentle yoga, body scans, and discussions of pain, stress, and mindfulness. Pre-MBSR and post-MBSR questionnaires investigating pain, anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and physical and mental health functioning were obtained and compared for individuals. We also conducted a mediation analysis to determine whether changes in mindfulness were related to changes in the other outcomes.
Significant reductions in anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation were observed after MBSR training. Mental health functioning scores were improved. Also, mindfulness interacted with other outcomes such that increases in mindfulness were related to improvements in anxiety, depression, and mental health functionality. Pain intensity and physical health functionality did not show improvements.
This naturalistic study in veterans shows that completing an MBSR program can improve symptoms of anxiety and depression, in addition to reducing suicidal ideations, all of which are of critical importance to the overall health of the patients.
Walser RD, Garvert DW, Karlin BE, Trockel M, Ryu DM, Taylor CB. Effectiveness of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in treating depression and suicidal ideation in Veterans. Behav Res Ther. 2015 Nov;74:25-31. doi:
This paper examines the effects of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for depression (ACT-D), and the specific effects of experiential acceptance and mindfulness, in reducing suicidal ideation (SI) and depression among Veterans.
Patients included 981 Veterans, 76% male, mean age 50.5 years. Depression severity and SI were assessed using the BDI-II. Experiential acceptance and mindfulness were measured with the Acceptance and Action Questionnaire-II (AAQ-II) and the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire, respectively.
Of the 981 patients, 647 (66.0%) completed 10 or more sessions or finished early due to symptom relief. For Veterans with SI at baseline, mean BDI-II score decreased from 33.5 to 22.9. For Veterans with no SI at baseline, mean BDI-II score decreased from 26.3 to 15.9. Mixed models with repeated measurement indicated a significant reduction in depression severity from baseline to final assessment (b = -10.52, p < .001). After adjusting for experiential acceptance and mindfulness, patients with SI at baseline demonstrated significantly greater improvement in depression severity during ACT-D treatment, relative to patients with no SI at baseline (b = -2.81, p = .001). Furthermore, increases in experiential acceptance and mindfulness scores across time were associated with a reduction in depression severity across time (b = -0.44, p < .001 and b = -0.09, p < .001, respectfully), and the attenuating effect of mindfulness on depression severity increased across time (b = -0.05, p = .042). Increases in experiential acceptance scores across time were associated with lower odds of SI across time (odds ratio = 0.97, 95% CI [0.95, 0.99], p = .016) and the attenuating effect of experiential acceptance on SI increased across time (odds ratio = 0.96, 95% CI [0.92, 0.99], p = .023). Overall the number of patients with no SI increased from 44.5% at baseline to 65% at follow-up.
Veterans receiving ACT-D demonstrated decreased depression severity and decreased odds of SI during treatment. Increases in experiential acceptance and mindfulness scores were associated with reduction in depression severity across time and increases in experiential acceptance scores were associated with reductions in SI across time.