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Suicide More Likely in Veterans who have Bipolar Disorder

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Studied have shown for a long time that there is a strong association between suicide risk (both attempted and completed suicide) and the presence of a psychiatric condition.

Until recently, however, researchers have had a difficult time determining the connection between specific psychiatric disorders and suicide risk.

Recently, a collaborative study by the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Healthcare System, was able to look at this more closely. The researchers, led by Dr. Mark A Ilgen, studied the treatment records of over 3 million veterans who had been treated at a VA facility in 1999, and tracked deaths by suicides through 2007.

Over 7,600 veterans committed suicide over that 7 year follow-up period - 46.8 percent of those had at least one psychiatric disorder. The disorder that was the most strongly linked to suicide was bipolar disorder, which had been diagnosed in 9 percent of those who had killed themselves. It was also the least commonly diagnosed psychiatric disorder.

Other diagnoses that were strongly connected to suicide were PTSD, depression, anxiety, substance use disorders, and schizophrenia. These findings emphasize the importance of identifying and treating psychiatric disorders in general to help decrease suicide risk, and particularly bipolar disorder and the other disorders listed above.

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