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Posted on Thu, Nov 11, 2010 : 4:25 p.m.

University of Michigan research: Bipolar disorder in vets shows strongest association with suicide

By Juliana Keeping

Veterans are as much as two times more likely than others to commit suicide, studies have shown.

A University of Michigan researcher recently explored why.

U-M psychiatry professor Mark Ilgen wanted to know which vets in particular were at an elevated risk of suicide.

Ilgen, who also works with the Ann Arbor VA, studied suicide risk among more than 3 million veterans who received care at a Veterans Affairs Healthcare Facility in 1999. Seven years later, 7,684 of those veterans had committed suicide.

Just under half of those who took their lives had at least one psychiatric diagnosis.

But the least common diagnosis, bipolar disorder, had a stronger association with suicide than any other condition. Other conditions include depression, substance abuse disorders, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder and other anxiety disorders, his research showed. Bipolar disorder had been diagnosed in 9 percent of those who committed suicide.

Why is that association important?

Now that those with bipolar disorder have been identified as having a greater risk for committing suicide, Ilgen hopes his work will improve suicide prevention efforts and help doctors assist bipolar vets in particular to keep taking their medications.

The VA constitutes the largest single health care system in the country. Current numbers show 5,535,315 individuals are using a VA hospital for care.

The research is published in the November issue of Archives of General Psychiatry and supported by the VA Office of Mental Health Services and other federal sources.

Juliana Keeping is a health and environment reporter for Reach her at or 734-623-2528. Follow Juliana Keeping on Twitter


Kat Bergman

Fri, Nov 12, 2010 : 4:17 p.m.

The U-M is on the forefront of research into the genetics of bipolar disorder. For more information on the illness and the research taking place, please go here: or here:


Fri, Nov 12, 2010 : 10:24 a.m.

Hashimoto's is often misdiagnosed as bipolar: Having such a high-stress job would in theory put more stress on the adrenals and thyroid and lead to more bipolar-like symptoms.


Fri, Nov 12, 2010 : 3:49 a.m.

If you care for our vets. Please go to Finally Backed By The Military. The DEA has approved of PTSD Treatment. With a 98% cure rate in a short time.(3 months) Please do them a Favor MAPS.ORG. If you love em. Do not let them become another statistic


Thu, Nov 11, 2010 : 9:54 p.m.

The number of suicides among Viet Nam veterans is higher than all that were killed during the 10 years of war. No one really has any numbers but they estimate over 70,000 military men and women have committed suicide. 3/82nd Airborne VIet Nam 1969