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Study to Help Identify Veterans at Risk of Suicide

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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.

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