Big Data and Suicide Prevention
The VA launched a system wide suicide prevention program in April called Recovery Engagement and Coordination for Health - Veterans Enhanced Treatment or REACH VET.
The new initiative is in response to the unacceptable statistic that 20 veterans take their own lives each day. REACH VET uses a predictive model to
analyze existing data from Veterans' health records to identify those at a statistically elevated risk for suicide, hospitalization, illness or other adverse outcomes. This allows VA to provide pre-emptive care and support for Veterans, in some cases before a Veteran even has suicidal thoughts. see description here
In a recent segment on NPR Morning Edition discussing the Impact of War REACH VET was discussed. Among the comments -
- Suicide among veterans is 22 percent higher than for civilians of the same age, and broken out by gender, the rate is a startling 2.5 times higher for women. That's according to the latest Department of Veterans Affairs data released this month. Now, the military used to have lower rates of suicide.
- For six years, the Pentagon and VA mined their considerable data to create a program called REACH VET. It launched in April. The program relies on another conclusion from a decade of research - asking if someone is feeling suicidal does not trigger suicide attempts. So a phone call from a VA clinician can be a surprise, but one that helps a veteran recognize the gravity of their situation
- Bryan ( Dr. Craig Bryan, University of Utah) is a veteran himself. He treated combat casualties in Iraq, and he saw suicide there. He published a study this year showing that no-suicide contracts don't work. He's afraid they might even deter some vets who are suicidal from seeking help out of a sense of shame.
- The past decade of research has also determined that some widely used practices don't work, including no-suicide contracts, where a patient makes a pledge not to kill themselves. Something like that is on its way through Congress. It's called The Oath of Exit. Upon leaving the service, troops would swear to reach out to another vet before they harm themselves.
To listen to the entire program go