Local study looks to prevent military suicides - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Local study looks to prevent military suicides

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) –Military suicides have no branch boundaries. The Department of Veterans Affair reports 22 veterans take their own life each day.

A Psychiatrist at the University of San Diego School of Medicine researched a way to predict military suicides before soldiers go home.

“The algorithm did a really good job of saying who is at highest risk,” said Murray Stein, M.D., M.P.H.

The Vice Chair in Clinical Research in Psychiatry co-authored a study published in JAMA Psychiatry that focused on 53,769 soldiers in the Army hospitalized for mental health problems.

“It applies to a small group in the Army but it is a group that is at very high risk of suicide,” said Stein.

The study shows of the mentally ill soldiers hospitalized more, than half who committed suicide were in the top five percent to be at high risk.

The profile included men, enlisted at a late age and committed crimes such as firearm offenses while in service.

“People who had been hospitalized with a psychotic disorder were at higher risk,” said Stein.

The study also found soldiers at high risk for suicide attempted to take their own life or flirted with death.

“Someone who is speeding and gets in a serious accident,” said Stein.

The study did not factor experience in past deployment and if they were in combat.

Dr. Stein says this a small group but gives the VA a tool to identify and treat soldiers who are thinking of suicide before they go home.

"You could assign the score to anybody who is in hospital with a mental health problem. Before they are discharged an electronic medical record could pop up and say this is someone who is a very high risk group,” said Stein.

The study is ongoing and scheduled to take another six months. Researchers are also looking in profiles of soldiers who are getting mental health treatment after being discharged.

The Veterans Crisis Hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 800-273-8255.

The study is funded by the Army. However, researchers say it can be applied to all military branches.

Congress is working on the Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act that would require every U.S. Armed Forces to go through mental health screenings at least once a year.

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