One of the most disturbing and concerning problems for both veterans and U.S. soldiers awaiting deployment is suicide. There are records of suicide rates within the U.S. Army increasing significantly when compared to the general population of the United States.
This is particularly true with soldiers who have participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom, as these individuals are often diagnosed with psychiatric morbidity.
The study was carried out by researchers from Harvard Medical School, the Uniformed Services University of Health Services and the University of California-San Diego. It was published in the Journal of the Medical Association Psychiatry and it reviews active and inactive military personnel to establish feasible causes of suicide to subsequently promote its prevention.
Why soldiers kill themselves
The accounted period of the suicide attempt was set between 2004 and 2009. The soldiers were reviewed through one-on-one conversations where the risk factors leading to committing suicide were evaluated. The method and time of the suicide were also taken into account along with the sociodemographic and mental health status of the participant.
163,178 soldiers were examined where 9,650 had been known to have attempted suicide. 86 percent of the participants were male and 68 percent were less than 30-years-old. The study revealed that an astounding 40 percent of the soldiers that have attempted suicide have not been deployed, whereas 29 percent of suicidal soldiers have been previously deployed and 10 percent are currently in deployment.
The results showed that women had an increased risk of suicide attempts when compared to men. Also, the presence of a mental health disorder proved to be one of the leading factors that could be linked to suicide attempts.
A frequent time period when the soldier would attempt suicide seemed to be six months into deployment. This is the time when most soldiers are visiting home, which is a very hard transition for an unprepared person’s psyche. It was also stated that having verifiable data regarding suicides is not easy since most civilian suicide attempts records are poorly documented.
Who’s at risk?
Out of the surveyed soldiers, the ones who were at most risk were the younger soldiers that are early in their career. Many cases of post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse and depression were noted by researchers in those that have attempted suicide. Many had attempted to end their lives with a firearm while others tried to use drugs and other methods.
It was not possible to discern the exact reason why suicide attempts seem to be more frequent when the soldier has not yet undergone deployment.
“In the U.S. there are more suicide attempts each year than there are first heart attacks. So suicide and suicide attempts are important to target with interventions,” commented Dr. Robert Ursano from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.
It was suggested by clinical psychologist Dr. David Rudd that to deal with impending suicide rates in newer recruits, better screening procedures have to take place at the time of enlisting. He pointed out that officials must work toward identifying military personnel who may not be able to cope with the stressors present in a military-related career.