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Wortmann JH, Nieuwsma JA, Cantrell W, Fernandez P, Smigelsky M, Meador K. Chaplain Training in Evidence-Based Practices to Promote Mental Health and Improve Care for Suicidality in Veterans and Service Members. Archives of suicide research : official journal of the International Academy for Suicide Research. 2021 Sep 14; 1-13.
OBJECTIVE: Chaplains are key care providers in a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention, which is a priority area for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DoD). In a cohort of 87 VA and military chaplains who completed the Mental Health Integration for Chaplain Services (MHICS) training-an intensive, specialty education in evidence-based psychosocial and collaborative approaches to mental health care-we assessed chaplains'' self-perceptions, intervention behaviors, and use of evidence-based practices, including Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Problem-Solving Therapy (PST), and Motivational Interviewing (MI), in providing care for suicidality. METHOD: Chaplains responded to a battery of items Pre- and Post-training and provided deidentified case examples describing their use of evidence-based practices in spiritual care for service members and veterans (SM/V) on various levels of a suicide prevention continuum. RESULTS: Post-training, chaplains reported increased abilities to provide care and mobilize collaborative resources. Over the course of MHICS, 87% of chaplains used one or more evidence-based practices with a SM/V at risk for suicide or acutely suicidal. Fifty-six percent of chaplains reported intervening with an acutely suicidal SM/V by using principles from ACT, 36% PST, and 48% MI. With persons at risk for suicide, 81% used principles from ACT, 66% PST, and 71% MI. Cases exemplified diverse evidence-based practice applications. CONCLUSIONS: Findings indicate chaplains trained in evidence-based practices report effective application in caring for SM/V who are suicidal, thus offering a valuable resource to meet needs in a priority area for VA and DoD.HIGHLIGHTSChaplains provide essential care for SM/V who are at risk for suicide or acutely suicidalTraining helps chaplains mobilize interdisciplinary and community resources in suicide careEvidence-based practices can effectively integrate within the scope of chaplaincy practice for suicide care.