Suicidal ideation and social exchanges among at-risk veterans referred for a behavioral health assessment


This article identifies factors that protect against or, alternatively, heighten the risk of suicide-related outcomes among veterans with MH/SA issues may be especially effective in reducing suicide rates among this vulnerable group.


Purpose The current study examined the independent association between positive (e.g., emotional and instrumental support) and negative (e.g., insensitive behavior, unwanted advice from others) social exchanges and suicidal ideation among veterans referred for a behavioral health assessment. Methods The sample included 606 veterans [mean age = 54.96 (SD = 14.96)] referred by primary care for a clinical mental health/substance abuse (MH/SA) assessment following a positive MH/SA screen. Data on sociodemographics, MH/SA conditions (e.g., depression, PTSD, anxiety, and alcohol abuse), the self-reported frequency of positive and negative social exchanges, and suicidal ideation were extracted from clinical interviews and evaluated. Results Veterans were primarily male, non-married, and had adequate financial resources, and approximately half were white. 74.4 and 20.3 % met criteria for a MH/SA condition and suicidal ideation, respectively. Multiple logistic regression analyses revealed that, adjusting for sociodemographics, physical functioning, and comorbid MH/SA conditions, veterans reporting more frequent negative exchanges with network members were significantly more likely to report suicidal ideation. Positive exchanges, in contrast, were not significantly related to the outcome. Inadequate finances and MH/SA conditions also were significantly related to suicidal ideation. Conclusions Findings highlight the value of exploring the quality of social exchanges among veterans in primary care who screen positive for behavioral health issues, as such information has the potential to inform screening and intervention efforts aimed at reducing suicidal ideation.

Full Reference

Mavandadi, S., Rook, K.S., Newsom, J.T., Oslin, D. 2013. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 48, 233-243.