Relation Between Sexual and Gender Minority Status and Suicide Attempts Among Veterans Seeking Treatment for Military Sexual Trauma

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Abstract

There is limited study of suicidal behaviors among veterans identifying as sexual and gender minorities (SGMs), despite previous research indicating rates of suicide attempts are high within civilian SGM populations. Further, some research incorporating military service members suggests those identifying as SGMs are disproportionately exposed to military sexual trauma (MST), an additional risk factor for negative psychiatric sequelae. To address health care research disparities among minority veterans (i.e., women, those endorsing MST, SGMs), we examined presentations of veterans (N = 277) who attended initial consultation appointments for MST-related treatment and completed a semistructured clinical interview including demographic characteristics, history of suicide attempts (HSA), and a diagnostic evaluation. Twenty-eight (10.1%) veterans identified as SGMs. SGM/non-SGM groups were contrasted on suicidal and psychiatric morbidity outcomes. Overall, endorsement of HSA was high (30.7%). Despite similar clinical profiles, 53.6% of veterans who identified as SGM endorsed HSA in contrast with 28.1% of peers identifying as heterosexual and nontransgender, a significant effect of small-to-moderate size. Findings suggest assessment and clinical management of suicidality is of critical importance for clinicians providing services to veterans pursuing recovery from MST, generally, and may be especially so when delivering care to SGM. Further, results underscore the need for culturally competent delivery of trauma-focused interventions.

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