Battling Suicide: New Research for Depressed Veterans
By Vivian Richardson, Ivanhoe Health Correspondent
ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Young, white men have the highest suicide risk among depressed veterans, according to a new study. This is different from the general population, where the highest suicide rates are seen in men older than 75.
“This has implications for primary care and mental health clinicians working with younger veterans,” Department of Veterans Affairs research scientist Kara Zivin, Ph.D., told Ivanhoe. She explained health care providers should consider these findings when treating veterans, and not depend only on suicide predictors based on the general population.
Dr. Zivin and senior author Marcia Valenstein, M.D., from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, analyzed data from more than 800,000 veterans diagnosed with depression and treated between 1999 and 2004. They report 0.21 percent, or 1,683, of the veterans committed suicide during the study period.
Along with the finding that men ages 18 to 44 had the highest risk of suicide, researchers also report veterans with depression who were also diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were less likely to kill themselves than depressed veterans not diagnosed with PTSD. Study authors suggested this might be because those diagnosed with PTSD were more likely to receive care through VA programs.
“We’re trying, with this work, to increase awareness,” said Dr. Zivin. Although she said researchers couldn’t draw conclusions about why certain groups have a higher suicide risk than other groups, study authors hoped this research would encourage more veterans experiencing depression to seek help. “Maybe one factor that is helping people is having a greater connection with the health care system, and that’s decreasing their risk, though we don’t know this for sure.”
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SOURCE: American Journal of Public Health, published online Oct. 30, 2007