Database may help identify veterans on the edge

June 19, 2015

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark News

The New York Times

A new database created by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the National Institutes of Health may be a powerful tool for assessing suicide risk among those who receive their health care through the VA. Using 381 variables, researchers sought combinations of factors that might indicate elevated risk. When they tested their model, they found that its predictions matched actual suicide rates among veterans in the VA system from 2008-2011. Those at the highest risk were found to be 80 times more likely to die by suicide than their peers. Robert Bossarte, the director of epidemiology in the VA’s Office of Public Health and a lead researcher on the project, explained that the database does not make it possible to determine whether any individual will attempt suicide.  “The risk score is more like a cholesterol number,” he said. “Just because it’s high does not mean you are going to have a heart attack, but it does mean we should take measures to lower the risk.”

Spark Extra! Check out SAMHSA’s fact sheet on “Behavioral Health Issues among Afghanistan and Iraq U.S. War Veterans.”