Effects of prolonged exposure and virtual reality exposure on suicidal ideation in active duty soldiers: An examination of potential mechanisms.J Psychiatr Res. 2018 08; 103:69-74.JP
The current study sought to investigate the effects of exposure therapy on suicidal ideation (SI), as well as potential mechanistic pathways of SI reduction among active duty military personnel.
Active duty army soldiers (N = 162) were recruited from a military base in the U.S. and were enrolled in a randomized clinical trial comparing Prolonged Exposure (PE), Virtual Reality Exposure (VRE), and a wait-list control for the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) stemming from deployments to Iraq or Afghanistan. PTSD diagnosis followed DSM-IV-TR criteria. Outcome measures were assessed via self-report and clinician interview. PTSD symptoms, depressive symptoms, and SI were included in an autoregressive cross-lagged panel model to examine mechanistic pathways.
Analyses revealed that PE/VRE had a lower probability of post-treatment suicidal ideation (OR = 0.23, 95% CI [0.06, 0.86]) compared to the waitlist control. Mediation analyses revealed a significant indirect effect from treatment condition to post-treatment PTSD symptoms through mid-treatment SI (Estimate = -1.420, 95% CI -3.559, -0.223]). Baseline suicidal ideation did not interact with treatment condition to predict PTSD symptom change at mid-treatment (p = .231) or post-treatment (p = .672).
PE/VRE successfully reduced SI, and the presence of SI at baseline did not affect PTSD symptom reduction, promoting the utility of using PE/VRE to address suicidality among individuals with PTSD. Mediation analyses suggest that reductions in SI were achieved early in treatment.