February 24, 2010

Psychologist Testifies Before House Veterans’ Affairs Committee on Recommended Treatments to Prevent Veteran Suicides

WASHINGTON – Psychologist M. David Rudd, PhD, ABPP, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Science at the University of Utah, testified today before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on the effectiveness of interventions to prevent suicide among service members and veterans.

Recent reports and warnings from the FDA on the use of certain antidepressants for people at risk for suicide have caused confusion among practitioners and patients regarding the safety of these medications, according to Rudd, a suicide expert and former military psychologist. “Given that as high as 75 percent of depressed adult patients looking for treatment receive medications and that an estimated 50 percent receive both psychotherapy and medications, this is a very critical issue for our veterans,” said Rudd.

Numerous scientific studies show treatments involving medications far outweigh the minimal risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors reported in some clinical trials, said Rudd who testified on behalf of the American Psychological Association. He added that for people who are at risk for suicide, antidepressants have been shown to reduce the risk of suicide as well as help manage symptoms such as poor sleep, agitation and anxiety and have proven to be an important complement to behavioral treatments.

“But for those hesitant to consider medications as an alternative, behavioral treatments have much to offer, either as an independent treatment or in combination with medications,” said Rudd. He offered the following examples of how psychological interventions can help at-risk veterans and military service members:

  • Explaining why veterans can be at-risk for suicide and the benefits of treatment
  • Teaching self-reliance, self-awareness and personal responsibility for their own care
  • Emphasizing the importance of crisis management and getting care after treatment
  • Engaging at-risk patients in treatment process

As Rudd explained, “We owe it to our veterans to ensure that they have the mental and behavioral health care that they need and deserve and the psychology community remains committed to assisting in this effort.”

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists. APA's membership includes more than 152,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting health, education and human welfare.