Characteristics and context of veterans experiencing serious suicidal ideation or suicide attempt by firearm which led to hospitalization
Waliski, A., Matthieu, M.M., Townsend, J.C., McGaugh, J., Adkins, D.A., Skaggs, E.M., ... & Kirchner, J.
Objective: Suicide by former United States military service members is of great public health concern, and one area, veterans' suicide attempts involving firearms, is understudied. One group that has a unique perspective on this are veterans with a psychiatric admission following a firearm-related suicide crisis, such as making a suicide plan or a suicide rehearsal with a firearm within the preceding 72 hours. This study seeks to address this gap in the literature by describing the characteristics and context of non-fatal suicide events involving firearms among veterans. Method: This convergent parallel mixed-methods design study collected both quantitative and qualitative data from male veterans (N = 15) who were hospitalized due to a suicide attempt or serious ideation using a firearm. Veterans admitted to a Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) were interviewed and asked to complete a survey. Qualitative data on characteristics and context were analyzed using a thematic analysis. Results: The fifteen male U.S. military veterans described their personal characteristics, such as their beliefs, family beliefs and structure, emotions, and employment status. Most participants were unemployed (n = 10; 67%), divorced (n = 7; 47%) or married (n = 5; 33%). Seven themes related to context emerged from qualitative interviews to include: combat trauma, non-combat trauma and negative life event(s), current and past suicide attempt(s), firearms, substance use, known deaths by suicide, and protective factors for suicide. Conclusion: Results suggest that engaging support networks and communities is essential when developing programs to promote identification of early warning signs and implementation of interventions or programs for reducing veteran suicide.