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Characteristics and Injury Mechanisms of Veteran Primary Care Suicide Decedents with and without Diagnosed Mental Illness.
Simonetti JA, Piegari R, Maynard C, Brenner LA, Mori A, Post EP, Nelson K, Trivedi R. Characteristics and Injury Mechanisms of Veteran Primary Care Suicide Decedents with and without Diagnosed Mental Illness. Journal of general internal medicine. 2020 Mar 26.
In the United States, suicide rates are increasing among nearly all age groups. Primary care is a critical setting for suicide prevention, where interventions often rely on identifying mental health conditions as indicators of elevated suicide risk.
Quantify the proportion of suicide decedents within primary care who had no antecedent mental health or substance use diagnosis.
Retrospective cohort study.
Veterans who received Veterans Health Administration (VHA) primary care any time from 2000 to 2014 and died by suicide before 2015 (n? = 27,741).
We categorized decedents by whether they had any mental health or substance use diagnosis (yes/no) using ICD-9 codes available from VHA records. We compared sociodemographic, clinical, and suicide mechanism characteristics between groups using chi-square, Student's T, or Wilcoxon tests.
Forty-five percent of decedents had no mental health or substance use diagnosis. Decedents without such a diagnosis were older (68 vs. 57 years, p < 0.001), and more likely to be male (98.3% vs. 95.8%, p < 0.001), non-Hispanic White (90.6% vs. 87.9%, p < 0.001), married/partnered (50.4% vs. 36.6%, p < 0.001), and without military service-connected disability benefits (72.6% vs. 56.9%, p < 0.001). They were also more likely to die from firearm injury (78.9% vs. 60.7%, p < 0.001). There were statistically significant differences in physical health between groups, but the magnitudes of those differences were small. Decedents without a mental health or substance use diagnosis had significantly shorter durations of enrollment in VHA healthcare, less healthcare utilization in their last year of life, and had little utilization aside from primary care visits.
CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE:
From 2000 to 2014, of nearly thirty thousand VHA primary care patients who died by suicide, almost half had no antecedent mental health or substance use diagnosis. Within VHA primary care settings, suicide risk screening for those with and without such a diagnosis is indicated.