An examination of suicidal behaviour among veterans receiving mental-health appointments in person versus clinical video telehealth [2020]

The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is a national leader in the implementation of clinical video telehealth (CVT) services. Despite the growth of mental-health services offered via CVT, it is unclear to what extent these services are offered and accessed by veterans with previous suicidal behaviour.

The current quality improvement project examined this question within a local VA health-care system using data from suicide behaviour reports (SBRs), the Veteran Health Administration’s official reporting and surveillance system. The frequency of SBRs was compared during two different time points among veterans who received individual mental-health appointments in person only or via CVT during the 2017 calendar year. Among veterans with a SBR, time in days elapsed from their first mental-health appointment to a SBR was examined as a function of treatment modality.

Results indicated veterans who received in-person treatment only were more likely to present with a SBR six months prior to their first mental-health appointment compared to those who received CVT during the observation period. There were no differences in SBRs during the 12 months after the first appointment or the time from the first appointment to the SBR as a function of treatment modality used.

Although veterans who received in-person mental-health services were more likely to have had a SBR six months prior to treatment, suicide risk throughout the observation period did not differ between groups. Clinical implications that arise from these findings are described in the discussion.

Sasha M Rojas, Marilyn L Piccirillo, Russell A McCann, Mark A Reger, Bradford Felker
Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare, July 21, 2020