Differences Between Veteran Suicides With and Without Psychiatric Symptoms
Our objective was to examine all suicides (n = 423) in 2 geographic areas of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) over a 7-year period and to perform detailed chart reviews on the subsample that had a VHA visit in the last year of life (n = 381). Within this sample, we compared a group with 1 or more documented psychiatric symptoms (68.5%) to a group with no such symptoms (31.5%). The groups were compared on suicidal thoughts and behaviors, somatic symptoms, and stressors using the χ(2) test and on time to death after the last visit using survival analyses. Veterans with documented psychiatric symptoms were more likely to receive a suicide risk assessment, and have suicidal ideation and a suicide plan, sleep problems, pain, and several stressors. These veterans were also more likely to die in the 60 days after their last visit. Findings indicated presence of 2 large and distinct groups of veterans at risk for suicide in the VHA, underscoring the value of tailored prevention strategies, including approaches suitable for those without identified psychiatric symptoms.