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Publication Briefs

Medical Care Supplement Features HSR&D/QUERI Research on Suicide Prevention for Women Veterans

The suicide rate in the United States has reached a 30-year high, with a notable increase in the suicide rate among women. Suicide prevention among women has become especially important within VA, as higher rates of suicide among women Veterans have been observed compared to women non-Veterans. Sponsored by HSR&D and the VA Women's Health Research Network, this special supplement will help increase the knowledge base on women and suicide as well as increase national awareness of suicide among women, which may further increase the resources available to tackle this growing concern. The articles in this supplement highlight the value of a wide range of data sources, from the macro-level surveillance data available through the DoD, VA, and the US National Violent Death Reporting System to the depth of qualitative data of individual experiences with suicide attempts. They also illustrate the complexities of studying gender and suicide, while generating a new understanding of important areas for suicide prevention among women.

Articles in this supplement include, but are not limited to:

  • Blosnich and colleagues found that transgender patients are more likely to use poisoning or firearms to die by suicide than their non-transgender peers.
  • Chen and colleagues’ findings – that gender may be associated with self-directed violence classifications by providers – raise awareness of the potential for gender disparities in systems designed to identify and treat Veterans at risk for suicide.
  • Denneson and colleagues discuss women’s needs in recovering from a nonfatal suicide attempt – increasing a sense of self-worth and developing stronger relationships with others.
  • Gibson and colleagues’ study on women Veterans over age 50 found that menopausal hormone therapy at baseline was associated with a two-fold increase in the risk of suicide at follow-up.
  • Hoffmire and colleagues discuss challenges associated with studying gender in suicide prevention and outline several key future directions for the field.
  • Monteith and colleagues describe circumstances associated with women Veterans’ willingness to seek care for mental health concerns and suicidal thoughts; for example, their findings suggest that military sexual trauma is associated with a lower willingness to seek care for suicidal ideation.
  • O’Brien and Tomoyasu discuss how prior research has expanded the field and the many ways VA HSR&D has supported the growth of research in suicide prevention among women.

Guest Editors for this supplement were HSR&D investigators Lauren Denneson, PhD; Claire Hoffmire, PhD; and Elizabeth Yano, PhD. Additional editorials were authored by Robert O’Brien, PhD and Naomi Tomoyasu, PhD, HSR&D Central Office; Susan McCutcheon, RN, EdD, Susan Strickland, PhD, and Jennifer Strauss, PhD, VA Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention; and Congresswoman Julia Brownley and Congressman Dr. Neal Dunn, both on the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.

IMPLICATIONS: This special issue addresses a wide range of topics important to women and suicide. Articles included suggest that younger age, mental health concerns, experiencing violence, and medical comorbidities may all contribute to suicide risk among women. Investigators should continue to build upon this work, while healthcare operations, community partners, and policy leadership may use these new findings to enhance prevention efforts.

Medical Care. February 2021;59.

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What are HSR Publication Briefs?

HSR requires notification by HSR-funded investigators about all articles accepted for publication. These journal articles are reviewed by HSR and publication briefs or summaries are written for a select number of articles that are then forwarded to VHA Central Office leadership to keep them informed about important findings or information. Articles to be summarized are selected by HSR based on timeliness of the findings, interest of leadership, or potential impact on the organization. Publication briefs are written for only a small number of HSR published articles. Visit the HSR citations database for a complete listing of HSR articles and presentations.

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