MCP – Military Continuity Projct: An RCT of two-way Caring Contacts via Text Message with the US Army and Marine Corps

At a glance

Principal Investigator(s): Kate Comtois
Research Team:
Participating Agencies: US Army and Marine Corps
Research Setting: Three US Army and Marine Corps installations


Based on Motto’s original Caring Contacts, but using 21st-century technology, Comtois and colleagues conducted a randomized controlled trial of a Caring Contacts via text message intervention with active duty Soldiers and Marines at risk for suicide. The researchers wanted to know if Caring Contacts would reduce suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, suicide-related inpatient admissions, medical evacuations, and emergency department visits.

  • 658 participants were randomly assigned to receive 11 Caring Contacts communications from  a study clinician who had met with and gotten to know each participant during a baseline assessment. 
  • Caring Contacts messages in this study were brief and focused solely on expressing care, interest, and support, e.g., “Hey Joe – hope things are going well and you’re having a good week.”
  • When participants replied, study clinicians responded according to a study protocol that was ultimately revised to allow for natural, caring interaction, e.g., responding to “I’m good this week” with “I’m so glad to hear it!”
  • This inexpensive intervention offers promise for preventing suicide attempts and suicidal ideation in military personnel and provides the military with a practical and scalable tool to reduce suicide risk.


  • In this randomized clinical trial, augmenting standard care with two-way Caring Contacts via text message did not reduce current suicidal ideation or hospitalizations at 12-month follow-up. However, Caring Contacts reduced the odds of having any suicidal ideation (80% vs 88%) and making a suicide attempt (9% vs 15%)


  • Comtois, K. A., Kerbrat, A. H., DeCou, C. R., Atkins, D. C., Majeres, J. J., Baker, J. C., & Ries, R. K. (2019). Effect of augmenting standard care for military personnel with brief caring text messages for suicide prevention: A randomized clinical trial. JAMA Psychiatry, 76(5), 474–483.