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Improving suicide prevention for women veterans: Recommendations from VHA suicide prevention coordinators.

Krishnamurti LS, Denneson LM, Agha A, Beyer N, Mitchell S, Dichter ME. Improving suicide prevention for women veterans: Recommendations from VHA suicide prevention coordinators. General hospital psychiatry. 2023 May 27; 84:67-72.

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OBJECTIVE: Women are a minority veteran subpopulation experiencing particular risk for suicide and facing distinct challenges in accessing Veterans Health Administration (VHA) care. As part of efforts to enhance suicide prevention, the VHA established Suicide Prevention Coordinators (SPC) as clinicians who work exclusively to connect high-risk veterans to the scope of VHA''s services. To understand the experiences of women veterans with suicide risk who access care, this study presents findings from qualitative interviews with SPCs regarding the care needs, preferences, and concerns of women veterans who utilize VHA for enhanced suicide-related care. METHODS: We conducted qualitative interviews with 20 SPCs from 13 VAMCs around the United States. We specifically asked SPCs to share perspectives on women veterans'' barriers to accessing care and their recommendations to improve suicide prevention for this subpopulation. We conducted a thematic content analysis to extract key themes. RESULTS: SPCs revealed that women veterans opt to avoid VHA due to prior negative experiences, often related to provider sensitivity to women''s issues. Safety was another key concern, specifically related to feeling unwelcome or intimidated in the male dominated veteran community. Key provider recommendations include increasing the availability of gender-sensitive providers and making changes to the physical spaces of the VHA to better facilitate women veterans'' access to care. CONCLUSIONS: SPCs underscored the importance of comfort and relatability between women patients and providers, especially in relation to enhanced care for suicide risk. This study presents important evidence in support of enhancing suicide prevention by better engaging women veterans in care that is more inclusive and more sensitive to their experiences and identity, in and outside VHA.

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