MIRECC / CoE
Surveillance of All Veteran Suicides
Enhancing a Leading-Edge
Suicide Surveillance System
The Center of Excellence for Suicide Prevention's surveillance activities are critical elements to the VA's overall public health strategy to reduce suicide among Veterans. Beginning in FY16, recognizing the ongoing importance of systematic and timely information, the CoE enhanced its focus on surveillance and capacity to provide analytic support to the VA's Suicide Prevention Program.
VA/DoD Mortality Data Repository (MDR)
Since its implementation in 2012, the Mortality Data Repository (MDR), formerly titled Suicide Data Repository (SDR), has expanded data available on suicide deaths from solely those using VHA services, to all Veterans and Service Members irrespective of VHA service use. This expansion was made possible through VA's cross-agency partnership with the DoD and National Center for Health Statistics. The MDR provides the most reliable, quality national Veteran mortality data to researchers and program offices from the VA and DoD. Working together, the MDR tream has integrated information from the National Death Index (NDI) and data from VA and DoD administrative records. The CoE has directly contributed to enhance the MDR by:
- Increase the timeliness of National Veteran mortality data. Efforts are underway to mirror NDI data availability and to enhance regular reporting on suicide-related events. The feasability of utilizing NDI's early release data is being explored as an option for providing early indicators of mortality trends.
- Expand knowledge base and actionable findings by identifying opportunities for more robust information on suicide. The CoE continues to leverage VA collaborations to identify additional data sources to better characterize suicide risk for high priority groups. For example, potential avenues for improved data access (and sharing) is being assessed for the period surrounding transition for Service Members, particularly during the year following separation.
- Improved reporting and dissemination. The CoE continues to contribute to suicide data reports, playing a critical role in their expansion through more systematic and timely reporting.
- Promote and support research on Veteran suicide & prevention. The CoE has significantly increased timely acccess to mortality data for research activities by reducing the time to execute research requets by more than 85%. Importantly, the MDR contains information on all-cause mortality and is not limited to suicide, permitting analyses on a range of contributing causes of death and health outcomes for Veterans.
Additional Surveillance-related Activities
Additional CoE programmatic support to VA suicide surveillance-related activities include:
- Suicide Prevention Application Network (SPAN). Monthly reporting of all suicide events identified by SPCs; providing ongoing expertise to a multi-department team in effrorts to standardize reporting withing the VA Electronic Health Record (EHR).
- Issue Briefs. In September 2017, the CoE began compiling suicide-related leadership briefs on events that are unusual, result in death, and emerging datta that might generate media interest or impact care for monthly reporting (e.g., identifying the number of on-site suicide events). There have been approximately 800 suicide-related Issue Briefs to date.
- Aggregated Non-Fatal Suicide Attempt Reporting. Using SPAN and EHR diagnostic coding to identify the number of unique new suicide attempters with no prior suicide events reported within the last three years.
- DoD Suicide Event Reporting (DoDSER). Establishing a Memorandum of Agreemnt between OMHSP, Defense Health Agency, and Defense Manpower Data Center to provide monthly information on suicide events within DoD for separating Service Members.