Study: Homeless vets five times more likely to attempt suicide

A bearded man in an Army jacket and backwards baseball cap, with a weary expression.
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Veterans with a history of homelessness are five times more likely to attempt suicide than other veterans, a new study by researchers at Yale and the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs has found.

The authors argue in the study, published April 2 in the journal Psychiatric Services, that funding for homeless programs for veterans is crucial to efforts to reduce suicide rates among veterans.

General population studies have shown veterans kill themselves at twice the rate of their civilian counterparts. The majority of veterans who commit suicide are not under VA care and they share some of same risk factors — such as substance abuse and mental health problems — as homeless populations, said lead author Jack Tsai, associate professor of psychiatry at Yale and director of research at the Veterans Affairs Errera Community Care Center.

The VA’s homeless programs are unique in that staff do community outreach to veterans living in shelters or on the street and try to bring them into the system where they can receive the care they need,” Tsai said.


Correction: An earlier version of this story erroeously stated that veterans with a history of homelessness are more likely to commit suicide. However, the study only stated that they are more likely to attempt suicide.

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Bill Hathaway: william.hathaway@yale.edu, 203-432-1322