Rocky Mountain MIRECC for Veteran Suicide Prevention - MIRECC / CoE
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Rocky Mountain MIRECC for Veteran Suicide Prevention

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Self-Directed Violence (SDV) Classification System, Clinical Toolkit & Nomenclature


The field of Suicidology has long struggled with the lack of a universally agreed upon definition for suicide and associated terms. Synonymous with the word suicide is the term self-directed violence. A shared understanding of self-directed violence (SDV) in its various forms is critical. The VA has adopted a system that is consistent with the CDC SELF-DIRECTED VIOLENCE SURVEILLANCE UNIFORM: Definitions and Recommended Data Elements.

A two-page handout of the Self-Directed Violence Classification System is available for download.

Also available for download is the Clinical Tool (CT). The Clinical Tool was created to aid clinician decision-making by facilitating rapid SDVCS term identification using a decision-tree model.

5 New Vignettes for SDVCS Training


We have just released five training vignettes that take real-life clinical situations and with the help of a consultant lead the clinician through the Self-Directed Violence Classification System. We plan to release 6 more vignettes, each a new challenge, in the coming months and build a dialog around using SDVCS. If you have an SDVCS challenge or question email us at

SDVCS Introduction with Bridget Matarazzo, PsyD

In less than six minutes Dr. Matarazzo explains clearly why the adoption of the Self-Directed Violence Classification System is important for clinical practice and research related to suicide prevention. You may be surprised that exercise plays a part.

SDVCS Vignette 1: "Going to Bed and Not Waking Up"

In this five minute video the clinician meets with a Veteran who says she is down and not getting out. The clinician asks directly, "Have you been having any thoughts of suicide or killing yourself?" The Veteran gives the ambiguous answer, a consultant helps tease out the SDVCS term.

SDVCS Vignette 2: "I'm Done"

In this eight minute video the clinician meets with a young Veteran who has had a recent suicide attempt. The consultant explores the issues of determining suicidal intent, bodily injury and what is meant by interrupted by self or other.

SDVCS Vignette 3: "Can We Determine Intent?"

Here a Suicide Prevention Coordinate reaches out to a Veteran who has missed an appointment. As the SPC checks in with her, the Veteran brings up burning her arm with a cigarette. In the following supervision session the clinician is faced with determining intent, what a specific behavior means.

SDVCS Vignette 4: "Asking Three Questions to Determine Intent"

The Veteran in this vignette is dealing with chronic pain from a back injury. One night he searches for information on how to overdose on pain medication. With her supervisor the clinician explores what makes a behavior preparatory and what is intent when it comes to preparatory behavior.

SDVCS Vignette 5: "Interrupted by Self or Other"

An older Veteran feeling overwhelmed by health issues and a pending divorce decides to drive his car into a ditch as a way to end his life. Before he can act he is stopped for careless driving. The clinician and consultant unpack all that happens in this session before deciding on the SDVCS term.

Rocky Mountain MIRECC Nomenclature Resource Center

On-line SDV Training Video

Rocky Mountain MIRECC has created a brief online training for the Self-Directed Violence Classification System. Watch this video, narrated by Lisa Brenner, PhD, the Director of Rocky Mountain MIRECC.

SDV Training Quiz

Test your Self-Directed Violence Classification System knowledge by reviewing 10 vignettes and answering 28 SDV related questions. The quiz also allows you to Ask an Expert as you proceed through the quiz.

Find the SDV Quiz here

PowerPoint Training for Self-Directed Violence - Updated November 2018

This presentation combines the latest updates to the SDVCS with the most comprehensive slides.

View slides as PowerPoint

View slides as PDF

SDV Online Decision Tree

We have developed an on-line version of the SDV decision tree for Smartphones and computers to help clinicians/investigators select the most appropriate SDV term.

The tool, based on work by Donald "Gordy" Gordon, offers a quick and easy question-based tree.

Access the SDV On-line Decision Tree Classification Tool.

Educational Products



The Rocky Mountain MIRECC has create a number of useful educational products for Veterans, Families and Clinicians that can be downloaded or ordered online. View, download or order our products for free.

Podcasts and Videos


Rocky Mountain MIRECC for Suicide Prevention has started a serial podcast called Short Takes on Suicide Prevention. We interview leaders in the field of suicide prevention in an attempt to make their research accessible to everyone. You can subscribe to our podcast by going to iTunes on your iPhone or on your Android device. You can also find all our episodes at our host site. Other places where you can find our podcasts include: iHeart Radio, and Blubrry.

listen to our podcast and more

We'd Like Your Feedback

If you have used the Self-Directed Violence Classification System (SDVCS) we'd like you to complete a short survey so we can make the tool better. We'd like to know how the SDVCS has been used, who is using them and what would make them better. Please take the Self-Directed Violence Classification System (SDVCS) survey from SurveyMonkey, it is confidential.

Site Map

Contact Information


Rocky Mountain Regional VAMC (RMR VAMC)
1700 N Wheeling St, G-3-116M
Aurora, CO 80045

Salt Lake City

VA Salt Lake City Health Care System
500 Foothill DR
Salt Lake City, UT 84148
801-582-1565 x2821

Last Updated 26 July 2021