VA Launches “New, Unique” Tool to Help Prevent Veteran Suicides

April 28, 2017

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark News

Stars and Stripes

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is launching a nationwide program to help identify veterans who may be at risk for suicide. VA researchers have developed a computer algorithm that searches electronic health records to identify risk factors for suicide, such as physical or mental health conditions, socioeconomic stress, and interpersonal issues. When the algorithm identifies a combination of risk factors in a veteran’s record, program coordinators contact health care providers so that they can follow up with the veteran and provide referrals if needed. The VA, which spent six years developing the program, hopes that the early identification of risk factors can allow for early interventions. “In suicide prevention, it is a new, unique approach,” said Program Manager Aaron Eagan. “If we can engage people well and build trust and make sure their needs are being met, we eliminate them ever getting to a point where they would have a crisis. That’s the idea of the program.” Piloted at two VA medical centers last fall, the program is now available across the country.

Spark Extra! Learn more about suicide prevention among military service members and veterans.