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Craig Bryan and the National Center for Veteran's Studies

There has been a lot of publicity lately shedding light on the alarming increase in veteran suicides. One of the faces behind this research is Dr. Craig Bryan, the associate director of the National Center for Veteran Studies. Together with Dean David Rudd, James Holbrook of U’s the law school, the VA in Denver, various researchers in San Antonio, Texas and Washington D.C., and countless others, Bryan has dedicated his efforts in bettering the health of veterans and active military members.

Bryan is a board-certified clinical psychologist in cognitive behavioral psychology. In 2009, he was deployed to Iraq and served as the Director of the Traumatic Brain Injury clinic at the Air Force Theater Hospital. When asked how he became involved in veteran health, Bryan says, “During the time I was deployed, I saw mounting problems for active duty military. I was treating combat trauma in the midst of a combat zone. So based on those experiences, I approached Dean Rudd, who is also a veteran, and we worked together on a variety of proposed studies that we believe will prove beneficial when all is said and done.”

With his previous ties to the military, his long standing ties with Dean Rudd, as well as his background in clinical psychology, Bryan’s position at the NCVS is fitting. As part of the position, Bryan runs the day-to-day operations, overseeing and coordinating different research projects. He also does a lot of traveling for outreach and education to teach and train professionals, policy makers, and members of the general public on ways they can help veterans in need.

Come fall, Bryan will be teaching an assessment practicum to some of the college’s psychology graduate students. They will take cases of students who go to the counseling center and analyze each issue relating to diagnosis, treatment, etc. “This practicum will give students a hands-on, concrete experience in the realm of diagnosis and treatment,” says Bryan. He is also collaborating with the Veteran Support Center to start offering assessments to student veterans, especially those who suspect they may have a traumatic brain injury, are suffering from PTSD, etc.

Along with his work with the NCVS and preparing to teach in the fall, Bryan is part of numerous research studies focused on his interests in mental health related to veterans—specifically suicide and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Together, the studies have received over three million dollars in funding. Topics of these studies vary from analyzing the risk and protective factors for PTSD, to a study currently in the works based on improving the accuracy of suicide risk detection in military populations. Bryan’s research with Dean Rudd is focused on crisis intervention in preventing suicide.“This research is concerned with what the best thing to do in the exact moment that will lead to an adverse outcome when a veteran comes in and says that he/she is contemplating suicide,” says Bryan.

Bryan is also in charge of a treatment study being performed at Fort Carson that tests a brief psychotherapy to reduce suicide attempts among active duty members. He also works on clinical research and health surveillance, analyzing the potential contributing factors to mental health problems including veterans’ disability status and how it affects him/her, the relationship between combat exposure and suicide rates, and issues of guilt, shame, and betrayal.

When asked about the importance of each study, Bryan says, “We currently have a growing disconnect between our military and civilians. Less than 0.5 percent of people will join the military. Those who do join and end up deploying, deploy numerous times. What most people don’t understand is that for service members to deploy repeatedly, they’re volunteering to do so, and it can be very taxing on a person’s overall well being. Whether or not you agree with the politics of it, these people are going through hardship every day. They’ve fought and earned our respect and many of the privileges and benefits they receive. So if we can’t help these people that do so much for us, who will?”

Bryan says the overall goal of the research is to identify the most effective treatments that will save lives. “I’m hoping that each of these studies improves the quality of life for those in the military,” he says. “I hope it provides clues for policy makers to pass legislation, and that it helps leaders and commanders making decisions on a day-to-day basis that could affect the lives of hundreds if not thousands of military personnel in fostering and helping them in their future.”

Last Updated: 3/12/21