Military suicide attempts more common among NEWER soldiers who haven't been deployed

  • 377 per 100,000 soldiers attempt suicide compared to 28 deployed officers 
  • At every rank it is most common in women, whites, high school drop outs
  • Research suggests atmosphere of mental toughness could be factor
  • The study will likely overhaul the way the military deals with depression 

War-time suicide attempts in the Army are most common in newer enlisted soldiers who have not been deployed, an unprecedented study reveals. 

Officers are less likely to try to end their lives - 28 per 100,000 compared to 377 per 100,000 of their subordinates.

At every rank, attempts are most prevalent among women, white people, and recruits without a high school diploma. Recent diagnosis of mental illness was another common characteristic.

The research, billed as the most comprehensive of its kind, suggests an atmosphere of mental toughness and fear of being sent to battle could be the greatest factors in a problem that has plagued the U.S. military in recent years.

Research: Officers are less likely to try to end their lives - 28 per 100,000 compared to 377 per 100,000 of their subordinates. At every rank, it is most prevalent among women and recruits without a high school diploma

Research: Officers are less likely to try to end their lives - 28 per 100,000 compared to 377 per 100,000 of their subordinates. At every rank, it is most prevalent among women and recruits without a high school diploma

According to Dr Robert Ursano, psychiatry chairman at the Uniformed Services University and the study's lead author, the findings are 'an opportunity to intervene' as they now work to analyze the data.

It will likely overhaul the military's approach in dealing with suicide, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The study, published on Wednesday in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, analyzed records on nearly 10,000 suicide attempts among almost one million active-duty Army members during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, from 2004 to 2009. 

That compares with 569 Army suicide deaths during the same period reported by researchers last year in a different phase of the same study. Rates for both increased during that time. 

An atmosphere that encourages mental toughness may discourage some suicidal soldiers from seeking help, according to psychologist Craig Bryan, associate director of the National Center for Veterans Studies at the University of Utah.

Bryan's research found promising results with an intervention that uses military-sounding names for traditional behavior therapy methods. 

For example, dubbing the 'hope box' method of focusing on positive thoughts a 'survival kit,' and calling special relaxation techniques 'tactical breathing' made them more appealing to soldiers.'

'It didn't seem like silly stuff to them anymore,' he said.

Pressure: It suggests an atmosphere of mental toughness  could be one of the greatest factors

Pressure: It suggests an atmosphere of mental toughness could be one of the greatest factors

Compared with Army men, attempts were more common in women but deaths were less common. 

Attempts were more common but deaths were less common in soldiers who weren't deployed versus the currently deployed.

'Suicide attempts and completed suicides have different predictors in most studies,' said Ursano. 

'They may in fact represent different disorders' related to suicide. 

Comparing military suicide attempt rates with civilian rates is difficult because of differences in methods used, Ursano said. 

The study cites nonfatal self-injury rates for U.S. men aged 18 to 34 during the same time - about 214 per 100,000 and slightly higher rates for women, but these only involve injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms and may include self-injuries that weren't suicide attempts.

In recent years, Army suicide rates have surpassed civilian rates although military estimates are generally lower than others. 

The new results will help the Army identify which prevention programs are most beneficial, Ursano said.

Suicide attempts can lead to a medical discharge but they are not grounds for automatic dismissal, according an Army spokeswoman.

 

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