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Psychology PhD Student Lauren Johnson Receives Provost's Award for Best Oral Research Presentation



April 16, 2019

Drexel Psychology PhD Student Lauren Johnson received the Provost’s Award for Best Oral Research Presentation for her work “Problem-Solving Approach to Moral Injury in Deployed Veterans at Risk for Suicide” presented at the 2019 Drexel Emerging Graduate Scholars Conference.

The conference, which focused on highlighting Drexel's most impactful graduate student research, included master's and doctoral students representing diverse schools across Drexel. Mentored by Christine Maguth Nezu, PhD, and Arthur Nezu, PhD, Johnson's work is aimed at reducing suicidal thoughts and behaviors among military personnel. A description of the award-winning presentation follows.

Problem-Solving Approach to Moral Injury in Deployed Veterans at Risk for Suicide

The rise in suicide risk among military personnel is increasingly recognized as a significant public health concern. These ongoing trends highlight the importance of identifying specific factors that contribute to suicidal thoughts and behaviors within this demographic. Moral injury (MI) is an emerging construct focused on psychological distress caused by experiences of moral and ethical conflict. Social problem-solving (SPS) is a cognitive-behavioral coping construct focused on strategies to improve challenging situations and manage negative emotions brought on by a stressful problem. Both MI and SPS abilities have been independently linked to suicidal thoughts and behaviors within military populations. The research presented focused on the potential moderating effects of SPS on the relationship between MI and current suicide ideation in a sample of 200 veterans with prior combat deployment/s. As hypothesized, the findings demonstrated the moderating role of SPS, suggesting the protective effects (i.e., decreased suicide ideation) of adaptive SPS abilities, specifically at high levels of MI. These findings provide preliminary support for testing the feasibility and efficacy of the evidence-based intervention Emotion-Centered Problem-Solving Therapy in the treatment of veterans experiencing moral injury at increased risk for suicide.