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Am J Prev Med. 2019 May;56(5):727-735. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2018.12.014. Epub 2019 Mar 19.

Administrative Military Discharge and Suicidal Ideation Among Post-9/11 Veterans.

Author information

1
Department of Veterans Affairs, Rocky Mountain Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center (MIRECC) for Suicide Prevention, Aurora, Colorado; Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Aurora, Colorado. Electronic address: claire.hoffmire@va.gov.
2
Department of Veterans Affairs, Rocky Mountain Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center (MIRECC) for Suicide Prevention, Aurora, Colorado; Department of Psychiatry, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, Colorado.
3
Department of Psychological Sciences, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut.
4
Department of Veterans Affairs, Rocky Mountain Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center (MIRECC) for Suicide Prevention, Aurora, Colorado; Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Aurora, Colorado; Department of Psychiatry, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, Colorado.
5
Department of Psychiatry, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut; Department of Veterans Affairs Northeast Program Evaluation Center, West Haven, Connecticut.

Erratum in

Abstract

INTRODUCTION:

From 2005 to 2016, the Veteran suicide rate increased 25.9%. Reducing this rate is a top priority for the Department of Veterans Affairs. In 2017, a policy change expanded emergent mental health services to include previously ineligible Veterans discharged under other than honorable conditions. To date, research examining the relationship between military discharge type and suicide risk has been limited.

METHODS:

This study aimed to examine the association between discharge type (honorable versus administrative) and active suicide ideation among Veterans participating in the Survey of Experiences of Returning Veterans (N=850, data collection 2012-2015 and data analysis 2017-2018) using logistic regression. Stratified analyses explored whether gender, time since military separation, or recent mental health service use moderated this relationship.

RESULTS:

The prevalence of suicide ideation was significantly higher (p<0.01) among Veterans reporting administrative discharge (23.1%, 95% CI=12.8, 33.3 vs 10.6%, 95% CI=8.4, 12.8). However, after accounting for lifetime suicide attempt history, combat experiences, posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms, depression, and drug dependence, discharge was no longer associated with suicide ideation. Recent mental health service use and time since separation significantly modified this relationship. The relationship was only significant among Veterans not using mental health services (OR=4.8, 95% CI=1.3, 18.2) and among transitioning Veterans <2years from separation (OR=3.6, 95% CI=1.4, 9.2).

CONCLUSIONS:

These findings suggest that recognized risk factors for suicide, such as a history of mental health conditions, account for the increased prevalence of suicide ideation among Veterans with administrative discharges and that mental health services may have the potential to mitigate such risk in this high-risk Veteran population.

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