Courses of suicidal ideation among military veterans in residential treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder

Noelle B. Smith, Lauren M. Sippel, David C. Rozek, Patricia T. Spangler, Delphine Traber, Casey L. Straud, Rani Hoff, Ilan Harpaz-Rotem

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background: Suicidal thoughts are common among veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The aim of this study was to examine the prevalence and correlates of four courses of suicidal (SI) among veterans receiving residential PTSD treatment. Methods: A total of 1,807 veterans receiving residential PTSD treatment at Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities who completed self-report measures at admission and discharge were included. Results: The prevalence of SI courses were No SI (33.6%), Remitted SI (23.0%), SI onset (6.0%), and Chronic SI (37.4%). There were group differences between the four SI courses in PTSD symptoms at baseline, magnitude of PTSD symptom change during treatment, race/ethnicity and baseline depression, substance use, physical functioning, and pain. Chronic SI was associated with highest baseline PTSD, depression, substance use, pain and worse physical functioning. Remitted SI course was associated with greatest pre-posttreatment PTSD improvement, followed by No SI, Chronic SI, and SI Onset. Multinomial logistic regressions revealed that PTSD symptom improvement and baseline PTSD symptoms most consistently related to symptomatic SI courses compared to less symptomatic or No SI courses. Receipt of trauma-focused psychotherapy (none, some, or adequate) and length of stay were not related to SI courses and did not differ between groups. Conclusions: Findings indicate that treating PTSD symptoms could be impactful for reducing suicidal thoughts. Although many veterans had remitted or reduced severity of SI at discharge, a significant proportion of veterans reported SI at discharge (43.4%), potentially highlighting the need for suicide specific treatment interventions within the context of PTSD treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)273-284
Number of pages12
JournalDepression and Anxiety
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020


  • PTSD
  • chronic suicidal ideation
  • courses of suicidal ideation
  • remitted suicidal ideation
  • residential
  • veterans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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