Year: 2017 Source: Women's Health Issues. (2016). 26(6): 667–673. SIEC No: 20170256


Women veterans are at increasingly high risk of suicide, but little is known about the concerns and needs of this population. This is, in part, owing to the low base rate of suicide and the inability to conduct retrospective interviews with individuals who died. In this study, we used a qualitative approach to gain insight about the concerns and nature of comments regarding suicidal ideation and intent among women veterans calling the Veterans Crisis Line (VCL).


Fifty-four VCL call responders were interviewed in the spring of 2015. They were asked about the concerns and level of suicide risk of women veteran callers with whom they have spoken and about the ways in which women callers are similar to or different from men callers. Interviews were transcribed and thematic analyses were conducted to examine patterns or themes emerging from the data.


Military sexual trauma and non-suicidal self-harm were two commonly reported concerns of women veteran callers according to responders. VCL responders also noted differences between men and women veteran callers, including differences in clinical presentation, suicidal means, and protective factors.


Our findings shed light on potential avenues to prevent suicide among women veterans, although we spoke to VCL responders about their impressions, rather than to women veterans themselves. Efforts to 1) prevent and treat the consequences of military sexual trauma, 2) recognize, prevent, and treat non-suicidal self-harm, and 3) restrict access to lethal means most commonly reported among women veteran callers may be helpful to mitigate suicide risk in this vulnerable group of veterans.

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