Warning signs for suicide within a week of healthcare contact in Veteran decedents


Objectives: This study examined warning signs for suicide observed in the final day(s) of life in Veteran decedents who received healthcare from Veterans Health Administration (VHA) (N=381), using data obtained from detailed chart reviews. Methods: Veterans who died within a week (7 days) of healthcare contact (18%) were compared to those who died later (82%). Multivariate logistic regression was used to examine differences in suicidal thoughts, psychiatric symptoms, and somatic symptoms as documented at the last visit, after controlling for demographic variables. A second multivariate regression examined whether the identified warning signs were also risk factors for suicide within a month (30 days) of contact. Results: Documented suicidal ideation, OR (95% CI)=3.46 (1.15-10.38), and psychotic symptoms, OR (95% CI)=2.67 (1.11-6.42), at the last visit increased the likelihood of suicide within a week of healthcare contact. Both variables also increased the odds of suicide within a month of contact. Conclusions: The assessment of suicidal ideation is critical to identify Veterans at immediate risk. However, recognition of psychotic symptoms may also improve identification. In addition to indicating immediate risk, some warning signs may also suggest on-going risk. © 2012.

Publication Title

Psychiatry Research