U.S. Army Suicides Rising Sharply, Study Finds

MSN Health & Fitness
By Steven Reinberg
March 7, 2012

Service in Iraq and Afghanistan appears to be the cause of increasing mental-health problems

Suicides among U.S. soldiers rose 80 percent from 2004 to 2008, an Army study found.

As many as 40 percent of these suicides may have been linked to combat experience in Iraq, yet nearly a third of the soldiers who committed suicide saw no combat at all, said the researchers, from the U.S. Army Public Health Command.

“Our study confirmed earlier studies by other military researchers that found increased risk of suicide among those who experience mental-health diagnoses associated with the stresses of war,” said lead researcher Michelle Canham-Chervak, a senior epidemiologist with the command.

“This study suggests that an army engaged in prolonged combat operations is a population under stress, and that mental-health conditions and suicide can be expected to increase under these circumstances,” Canham-Chervak said. “By establishing that soldiers who are diagnosed with a mental-health disorder or substance abuse are at greater risk of suicide, we then have a place to target our prevention strategies.”

The report was published in the March 7 online edition of the journal Injury Prevention.

The findings are based on analysis of data from the U.S. Army Behavioral Health Integrated Data Environment, a registry containing information — including consultations, diagnoses and treatment — on suicides from many military sources.

This analysis found that the rates of suicide among Army personnel from 1977 to 2003 were mostly in keeping with trends in the general population, and were actually slightly lower than expected in that 27-year period, the researchers said.

In 2004, however, suicides started to increase. By 2008 they had risen by more than 80 percent, to a rate higher than in the civilian population. …

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