Study to Help Identify Veterans at Risk of Suicide

11 Jan 2016

With suicide rates at near-epidemic levels in the United States military, efforts to help identify cases of suicide in veterans have intensified. The Department Of Veterans Affairs is currently engaged in a study that is specifically aimed at helping the agency identify patients, who have a higher risk of suicide.

Identifying patients with a high suicide is a major challenge for clinicians. The Veterans Affairs and National Institute of Medical Health have made use of data from the Veteran Health Administration’s electronic medical record system, and have identified small groups of individuals within the Veterans Health Administration the population, that have a very high suicide risk. These are persons who had not been identified as being at high risk of suicide by clinicians.

Researchers working as part of the effort identified persons with a high suicide risk by developing a unique suicide-risk algorithm. Data from between 2009 and 2011 was analyzed, and the researchers were able to identify patients with a higher risk of suicide.

Apart from identifying the suicide risk among veterans, the group also identified and analyzed the death rate among people who had already been identified as being at a high risk of suicide. They found that in the following 12 months, this group of people who were believed to be at a high risk of suicide, had higher rates of not only suicide, but also non-suicide deaths. The issue of mental health care for veterans is a valid one, and criticism against the Department of Veterans Affairs and its failure to provide adequate and timely mental health interventions to veterans in need, is justified.

Brain Injury Can Hurt Employment Prospects for Veterans

05 Jan 2016

Veterans who have suffered a traumatic brain injury during combat are much less likely to find a job when they return home, compared to veterans who did not suffer an injury.

The consequences of a traumatic brain injury during combat may continue to follow a veteran for months, and even years later. Traumatic brain injury is associated with a higher risk of post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition that can impair a person mentally, and leave him with symptoms of depression, trauma, and anxiety. Now a new study finds that veterans, who return home with a traumatic brain injury, find themselves less employable than their colleagues, with no history of brain injury. The research finds that these veterans with a brain injury find it much harder to find and keep a job.

The research was based on an analysis of 67 veterans, who suffered a brain injury during combat duty. These persons were compared to a group of 67 veterans who had no injury. Approximately seven years after the head injury, 36% of veterans who had a brain injury continued to be unemployed. However, in the control group, the rate was just about 10%. After 8 to 11 years, that gap between the veterans with a brain injury and without a brain injury, increased significantly to 50% for veterans with a brain injury and 7% for veterans without a brain injury. In other words, the employability of a veteran with a brain injury continues to drop over the years, until a point where more than half of brain injured-veterans have no job.

The researchers were looking at whether the brain injury impaired the person's ability to get the job as well as his marital relationship. The study found that marital rates among both groups were the same, but the unemployment rates differed significantly.