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Suicide Life Threat Behav. 2004 Autumn;34(3):233-41.

Suicide surveillance in the U.S. Military--reporting and classification biases in rate calculations.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Division of Neuropsychiatry, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, 503 Robert Grant Avenue,. Silver Spring, MD 20910, USA.

Abstract

The military has a well-defined population with suicide prevention programs that have been recognized as possible models for civilian suicide prevention efforts. Monitoring prevention programs requires accurate reporting. In civilian settings, several studies have confirmed problems in the reporting and classification of suicides. This analysis evaluated whether suicides were underreported or misclassified under accident or undetermined manner of death in the military system. We reviewed all 1998 and 1999 military deaths using official death reports and compared these data with additional sources, most importantly the DoD Medical Mortality Registry. We assessed for evidence of expressed suicidal intent and past psychiatric history among deaths classified as undetermined and accidents due to gunshot, overdose, drowning, falls, or asphyxia. Using sources other than official records, we found 17% more suicides than were reported, and an additional 4% of deaths that were suspicious for suicide. This study suggests that reporting and classification errors may account for 21% additional suicides in the military. These findings are comparable to rates seen in civilian studies and add to the literature regarding the problems inherent in using administrative death classification data for medical surveillance purposes.

PMID:
15385178
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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