Suicide risk factors among veterans: risk management in the changing culture of the Department of Veterans Affairs

J Ment Health Adm. Summer 1997;24(3):350-8. doi: 10.1007/BF02832668.


Suicide risk management in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system is particularly challenging because of both patient characteristics and aspects of the delivery system. The prototypical suicide-prone person is an older white male with alcoholism, depression, physical problems, and poor psychosocial support. This describes a large portion of the veteran patient population. Suicide risk factors that are common in VA patients include male gender, older age, diminished social environment support (exemplified by homelessness and unmarried status), availability and knowledge of firearms, and the prevalence of medical and psychiatric conditions associated with suicide. A variety of characteristics of the VA system complicate suicide management. Efforts under way to emphasize ambulatory care and decrease the VA culture of reliance on inpatient treatment heighten the importance of accurate suicide assessment. The authors recommend several strategies that VA administrators can consider for improving the assessment and management of veterans with long-term suicide risk factors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Veterans / standards*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Risk Management / methods*
  • Suicide* / prevention & control
  • Suicide* / statistics & numerical data
  • United States / epidemiology
  • United States Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Veterans / statistics & numerical data*