Brief relationship support as a selective suicide prevention intervention: Piloting the Relationship Checkup in veteran couples with relationship and mental health concerns

Dev Crasta, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Jennifer S. Funderburk, University of Rochester Medical Center
Tatiana D. Gray, Springfield College
James V. Cordova, Clark University
Peter C. Britton, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs


Introduction: Close relationship problems play a key role in many contemporary theories of suicide. However, the potential of relationship support in suicide prevention is understudied. This study explores the feasibility, safety, acceptability, and promise of utilizing the 3-session Relationship Checkup (RC) in veterans with mental health and romantic relationship concerns. Methods: We conducted a single-arm pilot of telehealth RC in veterans with a positive mental health screen and their romantic partners. Couples completed baseline and post-treatment assessments of study outcomes. Results: Feasibility analyses showed we were able to recruit an elevated-risk sample (30% history of attempts or interrupted attempts), take them through the service (90% treatment completion), and had minimal harm events (no suicidal behavior, no physical harm in arguments). Multimethod acceptability analyses suggested high satisfaction with the program, though some desired more intensive services. Couples reported improvements in relationship functioning, emotional intimacy, thwarted belongingness, depression, and posttraumatic stress. Perceived burdensomeness only improved for identified patients and drinking did not change for either partner. Conclusion: The RC is a feasible, safe, and acceptable strategy for providing relationship support to couples at elevated risk. Although further randomized trials are needed, RC shows promise to reduce relationship-level and individual-level suicide risk factors.