Gender should be considered in devising therapy.


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According to the most recent report from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), 6,435 veterans died by suicide in 2018. The majority of suicides-39.6 per 100,000-were by male veterans, but 291 female veterans (15.9 per 100,000) also died by suicide. It has been estimated that for every suicide in the general population, there are 30 attempts. A recent study in Medical Care focused on the veterans who survived their suicide attempts and found gender differences in their treatment needs and goals.

Figure. Image reprin... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. Image reprinted with permission from Denneson LM, et al.

The researchers worked with the VA to identify veterans who recently attempted suicide, then selected 25 men and 25 women who were representative of a broad demographic of veterans. These veterans were interviewed extensively, including to elicit their views of the treatment they received.


Gender differences emerged from these discussions, including how the recovering veterans wished their lives had been different or could be different. "Women were focused on their connections with others as well as wanting to increase their self-knowledge and self-worth," the researchers wrote. "Men were focused on trying to live up to their ideal selves by living and doing 'right.' Both women and men also wanted to feel a stronger sense of purpose in their lives."


The report reiterates findings that bear on clinical care for suicide survivors generally and suggests that treatment plans for veterans include gender considerations. The researchers acknowledge as a limitation of the study that no subjects who identify as transgender or nonbinary participated.-Frank Brodhead


Denneson LM, et al. Med Care 2021;59:S65-S69.