The Catholic University of America

Nov. 7, 2011

Psychology Professor Helps Soldiers Combat Suicidal Tendencies

$3.4 Million Grant Enables David Jobes to Test Treatment Approach with Soldiers

 
  Psychology Professor David Jobes

As part of his ongoing research on suicide prevention, Catholic University Psychology Professor David Jobes will work with soldiers with suicidal tendencies at Fort Stewart, a U.S. Army base in Georgia.

Jobes’ project, funded by a $3.4 million grant from the Army, will involve a clinical trial to test the effectiveness of his Collaborative Assessment and Management of Suicidality (CAMS) approach to the prevention of suicide. The study began in March, and runs through April 2015.

As part of the project, called Operation Worth Living, Jobes will use his approach with active duty service members at the Soldier Resiliency Center at Fort Stewart. Suicidal soldiers will be randomly assigned to receive either care as usual, or Jobes’ CAMS approach. After three months of treatment, they will then be monitored for another 12 months.

Traditional mental health approaches 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 targeted and treated. In contrast, CAMS focuses specifically on the suicidal thoughts and behaviors instead of using a mental disorder focus.

CAMS emphasizes a therapeutic problem-focused approach to find new ways of coping and adapting. For many combat veterans, the solution might be a readjustment to their marriages or relationships, adjusting to a post-combat sense of self, or the need to treat combat-related psychological trauma.

“Soldiers are trained to fight and survive; they really don’t want to die,” Jobes says about service members battling suicidal tendancies. But in recent years, members of the armed forces have been dying by suicide at record rates, he says. Jobes’ CAMS approach to clinically preventing suicide “helps suicidal soldiers engage the side of themselves that inherently wants to fight and live.”

At a press conference in January Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, Army vice chief of staff, reported there were 162 suicides in 2010 among members of the Army in active duty. This number was down slightly from the year before, but there was also an increase in Army Reserve and National Guard soldiers who died by suicide while not on active duty. 

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

Operation Worth Living is a four-year project involving active duty service members from the 3rd Infantry Division of the Army, many of whom have been deployed to combat zones multiple times since the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

Jobes has spent more than 25 years studying suicide prevention and has spoken nationally and internationally on issues related to suicide, including testimony before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Children and Families. He also recently served as one of six civilians on a 12-member Congressionally-mandated Department of Defense Suicide Prevention Task Force. Last year, Jobes was a featured speaker at the Annual Department of Defense Veterans Affairs Suicide Prevention Conference in Boston where he presented recent findings of CAMS research.

Over the last 12 years, he has worked with the military and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to find ways to decrease suicide among service members and veterans. He has been a consultant to every branch of the U.S. military. Jobes notes that CUA’s Department of Psychology has been a leader in suicide prevention research over the last 20 years with multiple faculty members conducting related studies.

MEDIA: For more information or to schedule an interview with Jobes, contact Mary McCarthy or Katie Lee in the Office of Public Affairs at 202-319-5600 or cua-public-affairs@cua.edu.

 

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