Prevalence and correlates of suicidal ideation among Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans

Kathryn Corson, Lauren M. Denneson, Matthew J. Bair, Drew A. Helmer, Joseph L. Goulet, Steven K. Dobscha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Scopus citations


Background: We sought to determine the prevalence and correlates of suicidal ideation (SI) among Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) veterans following the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) 2007 implementation of required brief SI assessments for veterans who screen positive for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Methods: We retrospectively identified OEF/OIF veterans screened for depression using the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-2) between April 2008 and September 2009 at three geographically-distinct VA Medical Centers primary care or mental health clinics. Veteran responses to a two-item risk assessment tool (VA Pocket Card) or PHQ-9 9th item, administered following a positive depression screen (PHQ-2≥3), were determined using manual chart review. Generalized estimating equations were used to calculate adjusted odds ratios for demographic and clinical correlates of positive SI assessments. Results: Of 1340 OEF/OIF veterans with positive depression screens, 32.4% reported SI. In multivariate models, odds of SI were lower for non-Hispanic white veterans (AOR=0.68) and greater for those with PHQ-2≥5 (AOR=1.87), depression (AOR=1.45), bipolar disorder/schizophrenia (AOR=2.84), and 2 or ≥3 diagnoses (AORs=1.59 and 2.49, respectively). Limitations: Study findings may not be generalizable to non-veteran patient populations and the study does not address the reliability and validity of tools employed for brief suicidal ideation assessment. Conclusions: SI is common among OEF/OIF veterans who receive VA care, perhaps more so among non-white veterans. Targeting veterans with higher PHQ-2 scores for SI assessment should be considered to reduce patient and administrative burden.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)291-298
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2013



  • Depression
  • Mental health
  • Primary health care
  • Screening
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Veterans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology

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