An assessment of suicide in an urban VA Medical Center

Psychiatry. Winter 2002;65(4):327-37. doi: 10.1521/psyc.65.4.326.20234.


This study characterizes those patients of an urban VA Medical Center (VAMC) who had committed suicide. A cause-of-death search of the 1,075 veterans from the VAMC's case rolls who died during 1998 was conducted. For confirmed and suspected suicides, a chart review was conducted, noting psychiatric history and recent contact with the VAMC. Nineteen patients were either confirmed or suspected suicides. Few of these patients had made recent contact with the VAMC, although the majority of them had received psychiatric services from the VA at some time. The proportion of deaths due to suicide was similar in African American and White patients. Rates of suicide were elevated, primarily because of the high proportion of patients receiving psychiatric treatment. Elderly suicides were less likely to have had psychiatric services or previous psychiatric diagnoses than were younger suicides. Patients with past contact with psychiatric services may be especially at risk of suicide, particularly as contact with these services diminishes. Elderly patients in medical settings with undiagnosed or undertreated psychiatric disorders are also likely to have elevated risk for suicide. These findings demonstrate the importance of acknowledging that risk factors for suicide are specific to sites or populations; this information can be used in allocating resources for developing site-specific strategies for prevention.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers / statistics & numerical data
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cause of Death
  • Comorbidity
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Records
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders / mortality
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pennsylvania / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Suicide / prevention & control
  • Suicide / psychology
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Urban Health
  • Veterans