Nelson HD, et al. Psychiatr Serv. 2017;doi:10.1176/

June 15, 2017
1 min read

Analysis shows suicide risk assessment methods lacking for veterans


Nelson HD, et al. Psychiatr Serv. 2017;doi:10.1176/

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Findings from a systematic review indicated risk assessment methods were sensitive to predictors of suicide and suicide attempts in veterans, but false positives were common, which limited clinical utility.

“There is currently no definitive screening method for assessing the risk of suicide that would lead to a uniform approach to prevent it,” Heidi D. Nelson, MD, MPH, of Oregon Health and Science University, said in a press release. “However, this review did shine a light on several promising approaches.”

Heidi Nelson
Heidi D. Nelson

To determine accuracy of suicide risk assessment and prevention methods for veterans, researchers conducted a systematic review of 19 studies that evaluated accuracy of risk assessment methods in U.S. veterans and military personnel from 2008 through 2015.

The majority of studies indicated sensitivity of 80% or higher or area-under-the-curve values of 0.7 or higher in single studies, including two studies that utilized electronic records of veterans and military personnel.

Specificity varied, according to researchers.

Suicide rates decreased in six out of eight observational studies of population-level interventions.

Alan Teo
Alan Teo

Two out of 10 trials showed significant differences between individual psychotherapy and usual care.

“For our veterans with PTSD, depression and related conditions, that can be a very heavy load to carry, especially if the transition from military to civilian life is bumpy,” study researcher Alan Teo, MD, MS, of Oregon Health and Science University, said in the release. “Given the millions of veterans that we are obligated to provide excellent health care for, this study shows all the more reason we need more coordinated research done on suicide prevention. We simply can't let our guard down.” – by Amanda Oldt

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.