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Publication Briefs

AJPH Features Articles on Veterans and Suicide

Reducing suicide within the U.S. is a national priority. More than 30,000 individuals die by suicide every year. Recent public and policy attention has focused on suicide among Veterans generally – and among individuals receiving services from the VA healthcare system. VA patients are more likely to have characteristics related to a higher risk of suicide, including: older age, male gender, and substantial medical and psychiatric morbidities. Moreover, there is increasing evidence that suicide may be a consequence of the stresses related to the experience of deployment and combat. Therefore, there is increasing interest in suicide among OEF/OIF Veterans. This special supplement of AJPH focuses on Veterans and mental health, and includes four articles on suicide among Veterans.


  • Blow and colleagues found that suicide was more common among Veterans who used VA healthcare than members of the general U.S. population, across all age and gender subgroups. However, overall rates of suicide among VA patients decreased slightly but significantly from 2000 to 2007. Male Veterans between the ages of 30 and 64 were at the highest risk of suicide.
  • Ilgen and colleagues found that male Veterans with substance use disorders who die from suicide often have contact with a VA healthcare provider in the month before death. In this study of 3,132 Veterans who died by suicide between 10/99 and 9/07, 56% made contact with a VA healthcare provider in the month prior to suicide, and 25% made contact during the week prior to suicide.
  • Katz and colleagues found that between 2005 and 2008, rates of suicide among Veterans differed by age and use of VA healthcare. Among male Veterans aged 30 and older, suicide rates were consistently higher among those who had used VA healthcare. However, among male Veterans younger than 30 years, rates declined significantly among VA healthcare users while increasing among Veterans who did not use VA healthcare. In addition, over this time period, an increasing proportion of male Veterans younger than 30 years received VA healthcare services, and these men had a rising prevalence of diagnosed mental health conditions.
  • McCarthy and colleagues found that living in a rural setting was a substantial risk factor for suicide among Veterans, even after controlling for mental health accessibility, in FY 04-05 and FY07-08. Firearms were the most common method of suicide (68% of all suicides) and were more common in rural vs. urban settings (77% vs. 61%).

Drs. Blow, Ilgen, and McCarthy are part of HSR&D's Center for Clinical Management Research and VA's Serious Mental Illness Treatment Resource and Evaluation Center (SMITREC), Ann Arbor, MI.

American Journal of Public Health: March 2012, Vol. 102, No. S1

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What are HSR Publication Briefs?

HSR requires notification by HSR-funded investigators about all articles accepted for publication. These journal articles are reviewed by HSR and publication briefs or summaries are written for a select number of articles that are then forwarded to VHA Central Office leadership to keep them informed about important findings or information. Articles to be summarized are selected by HSR based on timeliness of the findings, interest of leadership, or potential impact on the organization. Publication briefs are written for only a small number of HSR published articles. Visit the HSR citations database for a complete listing of HSR articles and presentations.

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