Veterans 61 to 80 years of age were found to have the highest risk of suicide, the researchers noted.
There are currently no governmental recommendations for close monitoring after someone is discharged from a psychiatric hospital, although one widely used protocol suggests one visit in the first seven days after discharge, Valenstein said.
"To have the greatest impact on suicide, health systems should prioritize suicide prevention efforts following psychiatric hospitalizations," she said. "If resources allow, closer monitoring during the first 12 weeks after an antidepressant start may be warranted."
Valenstein said that to help stem the tide of suicide among veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs is spending $300 million for suicide prevention and other mental health services.
Simon Rego, associate director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center and an assistant professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, agreed that there's a need for better monitoring of depressed patients after they leave the hospital.
"Although the results of this study are limited, in that they are based on a largely male and older VA population of depressed patients, they still provide an important contribution to an area of extreme importance to the entire mental health system in the United States: suicide prevention," Rego said.
The study highlights the importance of moving some of the responsibility traditionally placed on clinicians to the entire mental health care system in order to shift the focus of prevention efforts from individual patients to entire at-risk populations, he added.
"In terms of suicide prevention, the
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