Veterans are at high risk for suicide; emotion dysregulation may confer additional risk. Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) is a well-supported intervention for suicide attempt reduction in individuals with emotion dysregulation, but is complex and multi-component. The skills group component of DBT (DBT-SG) has been associated with reduced suicidal ideation and emotion dysregulation. DBT-SG for Veterans at risk for suicide has not been studied.
This study sought to evaluate the feasibility and acceptability of DBT-SG in Veterans and to gather preliminary evidence for its efficacy in reducing suicidal ideation and emotion dysregulation and increasing coping skills.
Veterans with suicidal ideation and emotion dysregulation (N = 17) enrolled in an uncontrolled pilot study of a 26-week DBT-SG as an adjunct to mental health care-as-usual.
Veterans attended an average 66% of DBT-SG sessions. Both Veterans and their primary mental health providers believed DBT-SG promoted Veterans’ use of coping skills to reduce suicide risk, and they were satisfied with the treatment. Paired sample t-tests comparing baseline scores with later scores indicated suicidal ideation and emotion dysregulation decreased at post-treatment (d = 1.88, 2.75, respectively) and stayed reduced at 3-month follow-up (d = 2.08, 2.59, respectively). Likewise, skillful coping increased at post-treatment (d = 0.85) and was maintained at follow-up (d = 0.91).
An uncontrolled pilot study indicated DBT-SG was feasible, acceptable, and demonstrated potential efficacy in reducing suicidal ideation and emotion dysregulation among Veterans. A randomized controlled study of DBT-SG with Veterans at risk for suicide is warranted.
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