Service Members and Psychiatric Hospitalization

January 24, 2014

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark Research

A study of active-duty U.S. service members released from psychiatric hospitalization found that they were five times more likely to die from suicide than other active-duty service members. The suicide rate among service members who had been released from psychiatric hospitalizations in U.S. military treatment facilities was 71.6/100,000 person-years compared to a 14.2/100,000 person-years among the general active-duty military population.

The risk to service members was greatest during the first 30 days after discharge, when service members were 8.2 times more likely to die by suicide than they were a year after discharge. The suicide rate in the first 30 days after release was 578.5/100,000 person-years. The study authors note that these findings are consistent with other published studies that indicate that risk is highest in the 30 days after hospital discharge. The increased risk of suicide remained dramatically high during the second and third 30-day periods after release (with suicide rates of 420.8/100,000  and 384.2/100,000 respectively) and remained above 130/100,000 until one year after discharge, when it dropped to 56/100,000 (which is five times the suicide rate of all military personnel).

The authors conclude that “The results of this study highlight the importance of safety planning, continuity of care, and evidence-based prevention interventions both during and after psychiatric inpatient treatment” as well as structured transition programs and “aggressive follow-up” of service members released from psychiatric hospitalization.

Luxton, D. D., Trofimovich, L., & Clark, L. L. (2013). Suicide risk among US Service members after psychiatric hospitalization, 2001-2001. Psychiatric Services 64(7), 626-629.

SPRC Resource NoteContinuity of Care for Suicide Prevention and Researchis a comprehensive report offering recommendations for the ongoing care of patients at risk for suicide who have been treated in emergency departments and hospitals.