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VA Research Spotlight

Highlights of VA research on mental health

May 16, 2019

This month, in honor of Mental Health Awareness, our focus is on research that aims to help Veterans and others who are affected by a mental health condition.

Make sure to check out VA’s "The Moment When Recovery Begins" campaign.

Mental Health (overview)

Mental Health Fact Sheet VA researchers are seeking potential new approaches for treating and preventing mental health disorders. The focus is on conditions common among Veterans who use VA care, such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and substance use disorders.


VA Research in Action

Prolonged exposure therapy to treat PTSD Prolonged exposure therapy to treat PTSD
Thousands of VA mental health counselors have been trained in prolonged exposure therapy to treat PTSD, partly thanks to positive results from a large VA study of the treatment in female Veterans. Read more



Individual Placement and Support to help Veterans find jobs Individual Placement and Support to help Veterans find jobs
The Individual Placement and Support model was initially developed to help people with serious mental illness find employment. VA researchers have adapted and studied the approach to help Veterans with spinal cord injury and PTSD, and their work has led to wide implementation of IPS in the VA system. Read more



VA Research Currents

Can mindfulness therapy help Veterans with PTSD? Can mindfulness therapy help Veterans with PTSD?
Findings from clinical trials suggest that mindfulness practices can be a helpful aid for Veterans seeking to recover from PTSD... (12/28/2018)

Podcast: Mindfulness and PTSD: What does the research show?



Study confirms value of prolonged exposure therapy for Vets with PTSD and alcohol problems  Study confirms value of prolonged exposure therapy for Vets with PTSD and alcohol problems
A VA San Diego study has confirmed the value of prolonged exposure therapy for Veterans coping with both PTSD and alcohol problems. Some experts have worried exposure therapy could worsen drinking in this population.... (04/24/2019)



PTSD nightmares: Is there an effective treatment?   PTSD nightmares: Is there an effective treatment?
A review article by a VA clinician-researcher explores why nightmares are a hallmark of PTSD, examines the associated health risks, discusses the best treatments, and identifies future research needs.... (03/13/2019)



Collaborative care in mental health reduces hospital admissions    Collaborative care in mental health reduces hospital admissions
In a VA study involving nearly 5,600 Veterans, collaborative care models for mental health reduced hospitalization rates and, for complex patients, improved health status.... (03/13/2019)



San Diego VA study testing cannabidiol—a compound derived from cannabis—for PTSD San Diego VA study testing cannabidiol—a compound derived from cannabis—for PTSD
Researchers at the VA San Diego Healthcare System aim to see whether cannabidiol, or CBD—a compound derived from cannabis plants—can help ease PTSD.... (02/05/2019)




Review study points to most effective mind-body therapies for PTSD 
 Review study points to most effective mind-body therapies for PTSD
VA researchers reviewing nearly two dozen randomized VA trials on mind-body therapies gave three of the therapies a nod of approval: mindfulness, yoga, and relaxation. ... (01/16/2019)



Infograph

Pre-deployment insomnia linked to post-deployment mental health struggles

Pre-deployment insomnia linked to post-deployment mental health struggles

VA Research News Briefs

Algorithm for identifying PTSD in electronic health records

Algorithm for identifying PTSD in electronic health records - Photo: ©iStock/Laurence DuttonPhoto: ©iStock/Laurence Dutton

(05/08/2019)
Researchers with VA’s Million Veteran Program have designed a computer algorithm to identify PTSD in electronic health records. Although PTSD may be noted in a patient’s electronic health record, researchers would need to read individual records to pick out patients with the condition for studies. The algorithm searches records for diagnoses and symptoms to classify patients as likely PTSD, possible PTSD, and likely not PTSD. The algorithm had high accuracy when compared with manual chart review. The algorithm could be useful for research and quality improvement endeavors within VA, say the researchers. A quick way to identify thousands of cases using electronic health records would help recruiting for large genome-wide association studies of PTSD. (Journal of Traumatic Stress, April 2019)



Treating alcohol problems: Does patient motivation matter?

Treating alcohol problems: Does patient motivation matter?  - Photo for illustrative purposes only: ©iStock/sturtiPhoto for illustrative purposes only: ©iStock/sturti

(05/01/2019)
Whether a Veteran receives alcohol use disorder treatment voluntarily or involuntarily does not affect treatment outcome, found a St. Cloud VA Health Care System study. Researchers looked at 120 Veterans being treated for alcohol use disorder in a residential rehabilitation treatment program. Half were admitted under recommendation by a court order. The others were admitted voluntarily. The researchers found no differences between groups in how long participants remained sober after they were discharged. The results show that patients’ motivation for treatment may not be a good predictor of treatment outcomes, say the researchers. (Journal of Addictions Nursing, Jan./March 2019)



Stress inoculation training shows promise for PTSD

Stress inoculation training shows promise for PTSD  - Photo for illustrative purposes only. ©iStock/asiseeitPhoto for illustrative purposes only. ©iStock/asiseeit

(04/25/2019)
Stress inoculation training can reduce PTSD and depression symptoms in patients with PTSD and traumatic brain injury, found a VA Northern California Health Care System study. Stress inoculation training is a psychotherapy that teaches patients to prepare themselves in advance to handle stressful events. In the study of 56 Veterans, the majority had significant reductions in PTSD and depression symptoms, better perceived stress tolerance, and improved social and occupational functioning. Eighty-eight percent followed through with recommended follow-up treatment. Stress inoculation training could be a useful treatment for patients who do not want to participate in trauma-focused therapies such as prolonged exposure, according to the researchers. (Psychological Trauma, March 21, 2019)



Post-9/11 Veterans less likely to delay mental health care

Post-9/11 Veterans less likely to delay mental health care - (Photo for illustrative purposes only. DoD/Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel Barker)(Photo for illustrative purposes only. DoD/Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel Barker)

(04/05/2019)
Post-9/11 Veterans were less likely than others to delay treatment for common psychiatric conditions, according to a study by VA Puget Sound Health Care System researchers. In a study of almost 15,000 people, post-9/11 Veterans were less likely to delay treatment for PTSD and depression than pre-9/11 Veterans or civilians. No differences in treatment time existed between groups for alcohol use disorder. Post-9/11 Veterans with health care coverage from VA in the past year tended to seek out depression treatment earlier than post-9/11 Veterans without VA coverage, pre-9/11 Veterans, and civilians. The results may reflect efforts to engage recent Veterans in mental health care, say the researchers. (Psychiatric Services, March 7, 2019)

View more VA Research News Briefs


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