The Catholic University of America

June 3, 2008

Psychology Professor Named to Veterans Affairs Panel on Suicide

Psychology Professor David Jobes has been named by the Department of Veterans Affairs to a group of nine civilian experts on suicide prevention.

Catholic University psychology Professor David Jobes has been named by the Department of Veterans Affairs to a group of nine civilian experts tasked with making recommendations to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs on ways the department can improve its programs in suicide prevention, clinical intervention, research and education.

According to a VA press release, the group is composed of nationally renowned experts in public health suicide programs, suicide research and clinical treatment. They will provide professional opinions and interpretations of research data to assist Blue Ribbon Panel members (government experts) in their charge to make recommendations for the VA health care system.

"If we're able to jump on this now and not wait, we'll be able to save lives and prevent downstream deaths," Jobes says. "We need to marshal our best ideas and resources to respond to a need that will be there for a long time to come."

VA Secretary James Peake said in a press release that "There is nothing more tragic than the death by suicide of even one of the great men or women who served this nation. VA is committed to doing all we can to improve our understanding of a complicated issue that is also a national concern."

Jobes is currently a co-principal investigator for a clinical trial at the Denver VA Medical Center and spent the last year during a sabbatical working with the VA Center for Excellence in New York training clinicians in his Collaborative Assessment and Management of Suicidality (CAMS) approach to suicidal patients. He has worked with the VA for the last 20 years.

The traditional mental health approach to suicidal risk sees suicide as a symptom of major mental disorders, Jobes says. And so, to rid someone of suicidal tendencies, the disorder is treated, often by medicine alone. In contrast, CAMS focuses on the suicidal thoughts and behaviors instead of mental disorders. It uses a therapeutic problem-focused approach to find new ways of adapting. For veterans, the solution might be readjustment to marriages or relationships, finding jobs, and a post-combat sense of self or the need to treat combat-related trauma.

Through the CAMS method, clinicians are encouraged to sit next to their patients instead of across from them in certain parts of the intervention. By doing this, they are literally and symbolically aligned with the patient and are better able to see things through the patient's eyes.

"We're not interested in shaming or blaming the patient," Jobes says. "Our preference is to collaborate with them to understand how they got into such a desperate state. When we learn enough about that with the patient, we can then co-author a potentially life-saving treatment with them."

In two current clinical trials of CAMS, Jobes is trying to show that his relatively short-term treatment can decrease suicidal thoughts and in the long run may help reduce health care costs by decreasing visits to emergency rooms and primary care doctors' offices by suicidal patients.

MEDIA: For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Katie Lee or Mary McCarthy at 202-319-5600.

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