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HEALTH / WELL-BEING

Associations between justice involvement and PTSD and depressive symptoms, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempt among post-9/11 veterans

June, 2021
Article:

This paper explores potential connections between involvement in the justice system and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Abstract

Justice-involved veteran research remains largely limited to men and those using Veterans Health Administration (VHA) services. Research inclusive of women and those not using VHA care is critical to understanding mental health and suicide risk among justice-involved veterans. This study examined whether lifetime justice involvement was associated with symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, recent suicidal ideation, and lifetime suicide attempt. We conducted a secondary analysis of 812 post-9/11 male and female veterans. The sample included veterans eligible and not eligible for VHA care. Participants were administered the PTSD Checklist for DSM–IV, the Patient Health Questionnaire-8, and the Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale. Additional questions assessed justice involvement, military characteristics, demographics, and recent use of VHA mental health care. History of justice involvement was associated with more severe PTSD and depression symptoms as well as suicidal ideation and suicide attempt. Associations were maintained after adjusting for sex, combat exposure, service branch, recent use of VHA mental health care, and education. Sex-stratified exploratory analyses revealed consistent findings among males; justice involvement was associated with suicide attempt among females. Current probation or parole was particularly related to depressive symptoms, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempt. Justice-involved veterans appear to be a vulnerable population experiencing heightened psychiatric symptoms and increased risk for recent suicidal ideation and lifetime suicide attempt. Programs within VHA and the community are important for connecting justice-involved veterans to mental health services and mitigating suicide risk.

Full Reference

Holliday, R., Hoffmire, C. A., Martin, W. B., Hoff, R. A., & Monteith, L. L. (2021). Associations between justice involvement and PTSD and depressive symptoms, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempt among post-9/11 veterans. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1037/tra0001038.

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