November 2013  << Back  

A tale of two veterans: Homeless vs domiciled veterans presenting to a psychiatric urgent care clinic

Haoyu Lee, BS

College of Medicine, Texas A&M Health Science Center, Round Rock, Texas, USA

Alana Iglewicz, MD

Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, San Diego, California, USA

Shah Golshan, PhD

Department of Psychiatry, Division of Geriatric Psychiatry, Methodology, Biostatistics, and Data Management Unit, University of California, San Diego, San Diego, California, USA

Sidney Zisook, MD

Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, San Diego, California, USA

BACKGROUND: The relationship between homelessness among veterans and mental illness and suicidality has not been clearly defined. To further examine this relationship, we compared rates of mental illness and suicidality among homeless and domiciled veterans seeking urgent psychiatric care at a US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facility.

METHODS: Information was collected by survey from 482 consecutive veterans seeking care at the Psychiatric Emergency Clinic (PEC) at the VA San Diego Healthcare System. A total of 73 homeless veterans were designated the homeless group and 73 domiciled veterans were randomly selected as the domiciled group. Suicidality and mental illnesses were assessed by self-assessment questionnaires and chart review of diagnoses.

RESULTS: The homeless group had significantly higher rates of past suicide attempts (47% vs 27%) and recent reckless or self-harming behavior (33% vs 18%) compared with the domiciled group but significantly lower rates of depressive disorder (25% vs 44%), as diagnosed by a PEC physician. There were no differences between groups on the questionnaires for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, or alcohol abuse. Nor were there differences in diagnoses of bipolar disorder, PTSD, anxiety disorder, schizophrenia/schizoaffective disorder, or alcohol abuse.

CONCLUSIONS: Veterans seeking help from a VA-based urgent psychiatric care clinic often are burdened by substantial depression, alcohol use disorders, PTSD, and both past and present suicide risk.

KEYWORDS: veterans, homeless veterans, suicidality, mental illness, depression


CORRESPONDENCE: Haoyu Lee, BS 3950 North A.W. Grimes Blvd. Round Rock, TX 78665 USA E-MAIL:
Annals of Clinical Psychiatry ©2013 Quadrant HealthCom Inc.

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