Spiritual Struggles and Suicide in Veterans Seeking PTSD Treatment

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Abstract

Objective: Research indicates that trauma can precipitate a loss of faith and struggles in the spiritual domain, leading to increased suicide risk. However, little is known about the specific types of spiritual struggles that may confer risk. This brief report examines the utility of a newly developed measure, the Religious and Spiritual Struggles Scale in gauging suicide risk in veterans. Method: As part of their initial assessment, 52 veterans presenting to an outpatient posttraumatic stress disorder and substance use clinic were administered self-report symptom measures. Results: Multiple regression analyses revealed that divine struggles and struggles with the ultimate meaning were significantly and positively associated with increased suicide risk, even after controlling for relevant demographic (e.g., being male and Caucasian) and psychological variables (e.g., posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms as well as alcohol and substance use symptoms). Conclusions: Results provide preliminary support for use of the Religious and Spiritual Struggles Scale with veterans and highlight the potential utility in assessing for spiritual struggles when assessing suicide risk.

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