As the 12th leading cause of death in the United States, suicide is a major public health concerns and the Department of Veterans Affairs’ top clinical priority. In 2018, VA implemented a 10-year vision to end veteran suicide, as outlined in the 2018 National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide (National Strategy). VA has worked to prevent suicide among Veterans — including those who do not and may never seek care within the VA health care system. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the suicide rate among veterans in 2020 continued a decline that began in 2019. According to VA’s 2022 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, the number and rate of suicide deaths among U.S. veterans fell in 2019 and 2020, with 6,146 Veteran suicides in 2020, 343 fewer than in 2019.
VA’s strategy has been an important catalyst helping to drive other major initiatives, such as the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide (PREVENTS), expanding the Veterans Crisis Line (VCL) to using 988 and, more recently, a nationwide campaign to address firearm safety. In addition, there are multiple efforts underway working in concert with VA including campaigns like ‘Lethal Means Safety,’ Veterans Crisis Line outreach and ‘Don’t Wait. Reach Out,’ plus other programs like the Staff Sergeant Fox Suicide Prevention Grant Program and Mission Daybreak, a suicide prevention grand challenge…
Specifically, VA is applying synthetic data in four areas to predict risk of mental health distress and to test the impact of care pathway modifications for cognitive distress to advance suicide prevention:
- Predictive modeling improves VA’s understanding of the current state of key data efforts in suicide prevention by confirming and clarifying ongoing challenges veterans face
- Quality improvement enables VA to assess clinical variation — the overuse, underuse, differential uses and waste of health care practices and services — with varying outcomes in mental health triage and treatment
- Population health management identifies veterans undertreated for mental health concerns and develops care pathways to engage and connect with veterans at high risk
- Optimizing diagnosis and treatment uses novel data sets made safe through synthetic data that help identify veterans with undiagnosed physical or mental health concerns increasing their risk of a crisis event or suicidal ideation… Read the full article here.
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