Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Military Suicides Linked to Mental Illness, Not Combat or Deployments


Neither combat experience, number of deployments, nor cumulative days deployed were significantly associated with suicide among current and former U.S. service members, found a study of 151,560 military personnel published today in JAMA. Instead, having depression or bipolar disorder, having alcohol-related problems, and being male are the strongest risk factors for suicide, reported Cynthia LeardMann, M.P.H., of the Naval Health Research Center in San Diego and colleagues.

The analysis used data from the Millennium Cohort Study, an ongoing effort that began in 2001 and is scheduled to continue for six decades. “[T]he increased rates of suicide in the military may largely be a product of an increased prevalence of mental disorders in this population,…” the researchers concluded.

This is "an impressive epidemiologic study—carefully done, with key variables clearly defined, and with a thoughtful analytic approach,” commented Eve Moscicki, Sc.D., M.P.H., director of the Practice Research Network at APA’s American Psychiatric Institute for Research and Education and an expert on the epidemiology of suicide. “The study makes an important contribution to our understanding of suicide in the military,” Moscicki told Psychiatric News. “And it sends a clear message that prevention, identification, and appropriate treatment of mental disorders is the most promising approach to suicide prevention.”

To read more about suicide risks in military populations, click here and here. Also see Psychiatric Services here.

(image: Justasc/Shutterstock.com)

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