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Original Research

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Preventing Suicide in Military Veterans: A Randomized Clinical Trial

Alejandro Interian, PhDa,*; Megan S. Chesin, PhDb; Barbara Stanley, PhDc; Miriam Latorre, PsyDa; Lauren M. St. Hill, LSWa; Rachael B. Miller, LCSWa; Arlene R. King, PhDa; Dianna R. Boschulte, PhDa; Kailyn M. Rodriguez, BAa; and Anna Kline, PhDd

Published: August 31, 2021


Objective: This study evaluated whether Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Preventing Suicide Behavior (MBCT-S) effectively augmented treatment-as-usual enhanced for suicide prevention (eTAU).

Methods: From December 2013 through March 2018, veterans (N = 140) at high risk for suicide were recruited mostly (88.6%) during a suicide-related inpatient admission and randomly assigned to either (1) eTAU augmented with MBCT-S or (2) eTAU only. MBCT-S began during inpatient treatment (2 individual sessions emphasizing safety planning) and continued post-discharge (8 group sessions emphasizing mindfulness skills and elaborated safety planning). Four follow-up evaluations occurred over 12 months, and primary outcomes were (1) time to suicide event and (2) number of suicide events. Secondary outcomes were time to and number of suicide attempts, proportion with acute psychiatric hospitalization, and change in suicide-related factors (eg, depression, hopelessness, suicidal ideation).

Results: Relative to eTAU, MBCT-S did not significantly delay time to suicide event (hazard ratio = 0.86; 95% CI, 0.52–1.41; P = .54), but did reduce total number of suicide events (MBCT-S: 56 events; eTAU: 92 events; incident rate ratio = 0.59; 95% CI, 0.36-0.99; P < .05). There were no significant differences in time to or number of suicide attempts. In a post hoc analysis, however, MBCT-S significantly reduced the proportion of participants attempting suicide (P < .05). MBCT-S also reduced the proportion with a psychiatric hospitalization. No significant between-group differences emerged on any suicide-related factors.

Conclusions: Adding MBCT-S to system-wide suicide prevention efforts produced mixed findings on the primary outcome (suicide events) and promising findings on other important outcomes (suicide attempts, psychiatric hospitalizations). MBCT-S should continue to be examined in future research.

Trial Registration: identifier: NCT01872338

Volume: 82

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