Behavioral Ecomomics Intervention To Increase Treatment Seeking In The National Guard
Principal Investigator: 

Daniel Capron

University of Southern Mississippi

Randomized controlled trial with Mississippi National Guard members to test a novel single-session behavioral economics intervention. The goal of “Behavioral Economics Assist Seeking Treatment” is to nudge guard members toward seeking treatment for physical, mental, and social health concerns. Self-reported motivation and actual treatment seeking will be assessed.

The suicide rate in the National Guard is one of the highest in the U.S. Armed Forces and yet, many do not seek mental health services. One potential method to increase treatment seeking behavior is to identify National Guard personnel by focusing on non-stigmatized, or ideally, positively perceived traits among service members that are nonetheless associated with increased suicide risk. Fearlessness about death (FAD) and increased pain tolerance are two possible factors that meet these criteria, and together these constructs contribute to increased capability for suicide.  

Dr. Daniel Capron’s innovative approach to this problem is pairing it with another line of work called behavioral economics. Behavioral economics has been successful in anticipating human decision-making errors and using techniques to help increase the probability of desired outcomes, including treatment seeking. Making initial contact with non-treatment seeking, but elevated risk National Guard members (i.e., high FAD and pain tolerance) and introducing a behavioral economics intervention named BEAST (Behavioral Economics Assist Seeking Treatment) will be consistent with “warrior-culture.”

Dr. Capron and colleagues aim to examine the feasibility of recruiting a suicide relevant National Guard sample by advertising for elevated capability (i.e., FAD, pain tolerance) instead of traditional mental health approaches. They will then examine the effect of a behavioral economics intervention (BEAST) on treatment seeking behavior and motivation. This will be achieved by recruiting 112 National Guard members with elevated suicide capability.  If effective, this intervention is scalable to increase treatment seeking for suicide risk factors by decreasing stigma and leveraging service members’ strengths. The BEAST intervention is approximately 10 minutes in length, low-cost, low-stigma and a highly portable, upstream prevention tool.