A group of researchers have set out to determine which soldiers have the highest risk of committing suicide. They’ve put together profiles of US army officers and found that young, single soldiers are the most likely candidates, especially if they’re also women.
Dr. Robert Ursano, a member of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (Bethesda), gave a statement saying that examining a suicide attempt on its own is only a small part of the puzzle. He went on to stress that observing how a person progresses from having thoughts of suicide to actually planning their demise and going through with it is equally important.
For their study, the research team looked at data collected from US army soldiers during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, between the years of 2004 and 2009. The experts studied their suicide attempts and concluded that roughly four (4) in every 1.000 active-duty US soldiers tried committing suicide once during that time.
On top of everything, when compared to other military branches like the Marines, the Navy and the Air Force, the results also showed that during the same years, the US army saw the longest sustained rise in suicide rates.
Overall, Dr. Ursano and his colleagues studied data collected from over 975.000 000 active-duty US soldiers. Roughly 17 percent (17%) of them were officers, a group that experienced 9.791 suicide attempts during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Statistically speaking, this adds up to a rate of around 377 suicide attempts for every 100.000 enlisted soldiers, a ratio that repeated on a yearly basis. For officers in particular, the rate was around 28 suicide attempts for every 100.000 on a yearly basis.
The research team noted that comparing these rates to those of average US citizens is next to impossible as soldiers differ greatly in their mental state, as well as many other factors. What’s more, they believe that not all suicide attempts among the general population are being reported.
Dr. Ursano gave a statement to Reuters Health informing that “The highest risk is certainly in the first year of service”. He went on to be even more specific, saying that the first three (3) months are the most dangerous ones when it comes to a soldier’s risk of attempting suicide.
The main risk factors turned out to be receiving a mental health diagnosis during the first month, being a woman, being young (having an age between 18 and 29), being over the age of 40, having joined the army after reaching the age of 25, being white or being Asian, being single, and not finishing high school.
Dr. Ursano also suggested that suicide rates may be lower among officers because they are typically older, married and more educated.
Another interesting finding is that the rate is highest among those who never deployed, as well as those who were previously deployed.
The team stresses that their study reinforces the need to focus on prevention efforts as many young men and women who are serving their first tour are in real danger of attempting suicide.
But the researchers admitted that further research needs to be conducted as they can’t yet explain why these factors make soldiers more likely to commit suicide.
The study was published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.
Image Source: alarabiya.net