Online Program

Suicidal ideation and attempts among US Veterans: Results from the 2011-2012 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System

Monday, November 2, 2015 : 3:30 p.m. - 3:50 p.m.

John R. Blosnich, PhD, MPH, Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion, Department of Veterans Affairs, Pittsburgh, PA
Lisa Brenner, Ph.D., Veterans Integrated Service Network 19 - Mental Illness Research Education and Clinical Center, Denver, CO
Robert Bassarte, PhD, VISN 2 Center of Excellence for Suicide Prevention, Chief, Epidemiology and Population Interventions Research, Canandaigua, NY
Purpose: Data about suicidal ideation (SI) and attempts (SA) among US Veterans are predominantly from clinical samples. This project documented SI and SA and their correlates among a nonclinical, representative sample of US Veterans.

Methods: Data are from the 2011 and 2012 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System’s Veterans Health module (n=10,406). Items included service in a combat zone; lifetime diagnosis of depression, anxiety, PTSD, or a traumatic brain injury (TBI); mental health treatment at VA or non-VA facilities; and past-year SI and SA. Weighted analyses were adjusted for sex, age, race/ethnicity, employment, education and marital status. We also stratified models by gender.

Results: Almost half (42.8%) of the Veterans had served in a combat zone, and 15.5% had a mental health diagnosis. Approximately 5.0% (n=376) reported SI; of those who reported SI, 20.9% (n=42) reported SA. Serving in a combat zone was associated with lower odds of SI (aOR=0.58, 95%CI:0.35-0.96), but gender-stratified models revealed that association was salient for men but not women. After adjusting for mental health diagnoses, unemployment was associated with SI for male but not female Veterans. Formerly being married was associated with SI among female but not male Veterans.

Conclusion: Veteran suicide risk is a major national priority, and SI among this sample of Veterans was higher than the general US population. In addition to mental health treatment, systems providing care for Veterans should be attune to social environmental risk factors (e.g., unemployment, relationship dissolution) for suicidal ideation, and how those risk factors vary by gender.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Describe the prevalence of self-directed violence among US military veterans; Discuss military and non-military-related risk factors for self-directed violence among US military veterans

Keyword(s): Veterans' Health, Suicide

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have authored numerous studies using population-based data, veterans, and suicide risk.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.