Systemic vulnerabilities to suicide among veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts: review of case reports from a National Veterans Affairs database.
Mills, P.~~Huber, S.~~et al.
While suicide among recently returned veterans is of great concern, it is a relatively rare occurrence within individual hospitals and clinics. Root cause analysis (RCA) generates a detailed case report that can be used to identify system-based vulnerabilities following an adverse event. Review of a national database of RCA reports may identify common vulnerabilities and assist in the development of more robust prevention strategies. Our objective was to identify and compare common themes among reports of suicide among veterans of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF) in the Veterans Affairs system. Common themes among root causes of suicide as identified in RCA reports were collected and compared as the primary outcome, systematic vulnerabilities. Actions recommended within the reports were coded as the secondary outcome, prevention strategies. Fifty-one RCA reports of OIF/OEF suicides were identified by our search. Coding generated 16 common categories among 132 root causes, and 13 categories among 108 recommended actions. Assessment of suicidal risk, coordination of care, timely access to care, and communication among providers were the most common root causes. Actions identified by RCA teams to reduce suicide included improving referral processes, staff education in suicide assessment, and follow-up with suicidal veterans. Review of multiple RCA reports can identify organizational vulnerabilities detected at the local level that may be applicable system wide. Attention to improving suicide assessment, coordination of care, and timely access may have the largest impact on reducing suicide among OIF/OEF veterans.