September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month
Veterans in Crisis
Call the Veteran Crisis line
1-800-273-8255 and press 1,
or text to 838255.
Preventing suicide among Veterans is a critical priority for VA. In 2014, an average of 201 Veterans died from suicide each day. Between 2001 and 2014, the rate of suicide increased among both Veterans and civilians, but the increase was larger among Veterans (32%) than among adult civilians (23%).2 In addition, the increasing rate of suicides among women Veterans prompted Congress to pass the Female Veteran Suicide Prevention Act, which was signed into law on June 30, 2016.3
September Cyberseminars on Suicide Prevention
During September, the HSR&D Cyberseminar Series is hosting three sessions presenting research associated with various aspects of suicide prevention.
While VA works to reach Veterans who need mental healthcare—more than 1.6 million Veterans received specialized mental healthcare in FY20154—VA’s Health Services Research & Development Service focuses research and implementation efforts on suicide prevention through Centers of Innovation with a particular focus on mental health and suicide prevention, and individually-funded research studies. HSR&D’s work is supplemented by dissemination of findings via multiple channels and ongoing educational efforts.
HSR&D-funded Centers Focus on Suicide Prevention
- HSR&D's Center for Mental Healthcare and Outcomes Research (CeMHOR) focuses on improving access and engagement in mental and specialty mental healthcare for Veterans. Investigators at CeMHOR are leading one of the largest national studies involving REACH-VET (Recovery, Engagement and Coordination for Health Veterans Enhanced Treatment), which combines a state-of-the-art suicide risk prediction model with a care coordination implementation program designed for Veterans at the highest risk of suicide.
- Researchers with HSR&D/QUERI’s Partnered Evidence-based Policy Resource Center (PEPReC) are conducting an investigation that will determine best practices in facilitating implementation of REACH-VET nationally, informing more effective efforts to deliver suicide prevention resources to high-risk Veterans across the VA healthcare system.
- Suicide prevention also is a main area of research for HSR&D's Center to Improve Veteran Involvement in Care (CIVIC). Areas of particular focus include the psychosocial and healthcare experiences of Veterans who died by suicide. For example, CIVIC investigators are examining how social support and relationships with peers, family, and others can provide a buffer against mental illness and suicide. Working with the Department of Defense, CIVIC investigators also developed and implemented a smartphone app called the Virtual Hope Box (VHB), which serves as a reminder of positive life experiences and reasons for living, and has been downloaded more than 200,000 times since 2014. The VHB app is available for free via the Apple App Store and Google Play.
- The Collaborative Research to Enhance and Advance Transformation and Excellence (CREATE) Initiative, Evidence-Based Therapies for PTSD, focuses on improving Veterans' access to and engagement in evidence-based treatments for PTSD–a risk factor for suicide.
- Another CREATE initiative, Improving Rural Veterans' Access/Engagement in Evidence-based Mental Healthcare, aims to improve treatment engagement for Veterans living in rural settings who access mental health services, including treatment for depressive disorders, bipolar disorder, and PTSD that can increase risk of suicide, at VA community-based outpatient clinics.
Selected HSR&D-funded Studies Into Suicide Prevention
- Neurocognitive Risk Factors and Suicide Prevention. Alejandro Interian, PhD, HSR&D investigator and a staff psychologist with the VA New Jersey Health Care System, talks about neurocognitive risk factors and how they may be used to help prevent Veteran suicide.
- Evidence-Based Interventions and TBI. Lisa Brenner, PhD, Director of theMental Illness Research, Education and Clinical CenterforVeterans Integrated Service Network 19, discusses two evidence-based interventions that may help prevent suicide among Veterans with traumatic brain injury.
- Opioids and PTSD. Eric Hawkins, PhD, investigator with HSR&D'sCenter for Innovation for Veteran-Centered and Value-Driven Care, co-located in Seattle, WA and Denver, CO, talks about whether opioid and benzodiazepine co-prescribing among patients with PTSD contributes to mortality among Veterans.
- Suicide Prevention Cyberseminar Series. Jointly sponsored by HSR&D and a multi-disciplinary group of VA suicide prevention investigators from across the nation, this series disseminates evidence-based research and best practices in the area of suicide prevention to inform clinical practice decisions to improve outcomes for Veterans at risk for suicidal self-directed violence, and fosters collaborations between researchers to advance the knowledge base around reducing Veteran suicide.
- Research By Topic: Suicide Prevention. This topic-specific search tool on the HSR&D website provides results that include the most currently-available HSR&D-funded papers, publications, citations, and multimedia resources associated with suicide prevention.
1. Dept. of Veterans Affairs Suicide Prevention Fact Sheet
3. VA Mental Health Care. Fact Sheet. VA Office of Public Affairs, Media Relations. April 2016.