Study Reveals Top Reason Behind Soldiers’ Suicides
When researchers asked 72 soldiers at Fort Carson, Colo., why they tried to kill themselves, out of the 33 reasons they had to choose from, all of the soldiers included one in particular a desire to end intense emotional distress.
“This really is the first study that provides scientific data saying that the top reason these guys are trying to kill themselves is because they have this intense psychological suffering and pain,” said Craig Bryan, co-author of the study by the National Center for Veterans Studies at the University of Utah that will be published in the coming months.Suicide within the military has soared since 2005 as the military has waged two wars at once, and this year may set a record with troops committing suicide at the rate of one per day, according to Pentagon figures.
But military scientists say that finally, after years of congressional funding and the launch of randomized studies of a subject rarely researched, a few validated results are beginning to surface.
The findings by the Pentagon-funded study offer perhaps some guidance on how to attack the problem, said Army Col. Carl Castro, who is coordinating $50 million in research into suicide prevention and treatment.
“The core of the issue is that it’s not that people who attempt suicide want to harm themselves as much as they want the pain they’re currently in to stop, and they don’t see any other way out,” Castro said.
Reach Out: How To Help Someone At Risk Of Suicide
“If we’re really going to tackle the problem of suicide in America, in the world, in the military, we’ve got to approach this from a more disciplined framework,” he said.
There is also the sheer length of post-9/11 military conflicts. The war in Afghanistan has been going on since 2001, the longest war in U.S. history.
“I spoke with veterans sons are now serving in the same war that they served in,” Suitt said.
Avoidance Of Reminders Of Traumatic Events
Because recalling traumatic events can be emotionally distressing, many individuals with PTSD avoid people, places, or things that might remind them of these experiences. Either intentionally or unconsciously, people with a diagnosis of PTSD typically steer clear of stressors that might trigger the painful thoughts and feelings associated with their trauma.
Among veterans with PTSD, this avoidance might involve resisting discussion of their military service or withdrawing from friendships with fellow service members. Post-deployment, veterans may rebuff questions from family members and loved ones about their combat experiences.
For many veterans with PTSD, seeking help may be extremely challenging, as doing so will likely involve direct discussion of their trauma. This barrier, coupled with our cultures general stigma regarding mental illness, causes far too many veterans to avoid the mental health care they need.
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Males By Reason For Release
Male Veterans who had a non-voluntary release between 1992 and 2012 were approximately twice as likely to die by suicide as those who had a voluntary release.
This aligns with research of CAF Veterans where mental health, and to a lesser extent, physical health, were found to be associated with suicidal ideation . Among Veterans who enrolled and released between 1972 and 2006, the risk of suicide was significantly higher in those who had an involuntary release or a medical release than those who released voluntarily . However, this study did not account for the changes in release classification over the study period, which were observed during the analysis for the 2018 VSMS.
Research from other countries often had similar findings. In Australia, male Veterans who were discharged involuntarily had a 2.4 times higher rate of suicide than those who discharged for voluntary reasons, and it was particularly higher in those who discharged for medical reasons . A study examining US military personnel found that compared to those with an honourable release, the risk of suicide was highest for those who did not have an honourable release , although a large portion of those studied had an unknown release characterisation . In contrast, a UK study found that there was no statistically significant difference in suicide risk between Veterans who had medical releases and those who had non-medical releases .
Males By Time Since Release
Overall, the risk of suicide peaked in male Veterans within the first decade after release, and this risk decreased with time. When comparing amongst Veterans and when controlling for other military factors, male Veterans had the greatest risk of suicide at approximately four years after release. When comparing to the male general population, male Veterans had the highest rate of suicide in the first decade after release. The peak in suicide risk immediately after release was not pronounced, and decreased until approximately 20 years after release when they reached Canadian male levels.
The overall decreasing trend of suicide risk with time since release aligned with findings from other countries. In Australia, the rate of suicide was highest in those males who had been released for less than six years, compared to those who been released six to 12 years however, this difference was not found to be statistically significant . A study of UK Armed Forces Veteran found the risk of suicide was persistent but may have been at highest in the first two years following release . Lastly, a study examining US military personnel found that the risk of suicide was highest in the first year after release , and it gradually decreased with time .
Mental And Behavioral Health Issues
- Substance Use Disorders: More than 20% of all veterans with PTSD also struggle with substance abuse challenges, referred to clinically as substance use disorders. Among veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan war, for example, 63% diagnosed with substance abuse problems were also diagnosed with PTSD. The connection may relate to coping: Substance abuse may represent a means to manage distressing thoughts and feelings related to experienced trauma.
- Other Mental Health Disorders: Among people diagnosed with PTSD, roughly 80% meet diagnostic criteria for at least one other form of mental illness. Veterans are no exception to this troubling pattern. Many military service members with PTSD also experience depression and anxiety among other conditions. Additionally, some research indicates that veterans with PTSD are at increased risk of committing suicide, particularly if they experience combat-related guilt.
Suicide Rate Among Veterans Up Again Slightly Despite Focus On Prevention Efforts
The rate of suicide among veterans ticked upwards in recent years despite increased public attention and funding on the problem, according to a new report released by Department of Veterans Affairs officials on Thursday.
However, the latest data still lags two years behind present conditions and does not include any figures from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which mental health experts have warned may be causing even larger increases in the rates of mental distress and self harm among veterans.
The suicide report which is typically released in early October, but was delayed more than a month this year shows the rate of suicide among veterans at 17.6 a day in 2018. Thats a slight increase from 2017, when the number was 17.5.
Numerous public figures and public awareness campaigns in recent years have quoted the figure of 20 a day in reference to veterans suicide, but VA officials last year clarified that estimate also includes active-duty troops, guardsmen and reservists.
From 2005 to 2018, the overall suicide rate has remained largely unchanged, between 17 and 18 veterans a day. Thats in spite of numerous public awareness campaigns, VA outreach programs and new department training mandates enacted over the last two presidential administrations.
In a statement, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said that despite the lack of overall progress in suicide prevention among veterans, the report does show some areas of improvement.
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Males By Age At Release
In male Veterans, the risk of dying by suicide decreased as age at release increased. Those who were under 25 at release were approximately three times more likely to die by suicide compared to males who released at 45 years and older. In addition, those who were aged 25 to 34 were approximately twice as likely, and those who were aged 35 to 44 at release were approximately 50 per cent more likely to die by suicide.
This same trend has been observed elsewhere. The earlier CF CAMS study of Veterans who enrolled and released between 1972 and 2006 found that for both males and females Veterans combined, the risk of suicide decreased with age at release, and that the risk of suicide was significantly higher in those who released under age 25 compared to those who released at age 25 or older . Most other international studies examined age as a risk factor, but did not appear to specifically examine age at release. One UK Armed Forces Veteran study, however, found that for both males and females combined, the risk of suicide decreased with age, and was significantly higher for those who released under age 25 compared to those who released at age 45 to 59 .
Ptsd Symptoms: What Affected Veterans Experiences
Individuals with PTSD experience a diverse array of symptoms, and veterans with a diagnosis of PTSD may face several kinds of challenging thoughts and feelings. However, PTSD is generally characterized by a few distinct categories of symptoms, which mental health professionals use to assess and treat the disorder.These symptom categories, as described in the American Psychiatric Associations Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders , capture the kinds of mental health problems that veterans with PTSD experience to differing degrees. These DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for PTSD are widely accepted in psychiatry and related mental health fields. To understand the daily struggles that PTSD can entail or to assess whether you might be experiencing this condition yourself consider the following:
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Suicide Among Veterans Of The Us Armed Forces
According to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs , an average of 20 veterans died every day in 2014 due to suicide. The report also shares that:
- 6 of those 20 deaths were recent users of VA hospital services.
- About 67% of veteran suicide deaths involve firearms.
- Approximately 65% of veterans who died due to suicide in 2014 were 50 or older.
- The risk of suicide among male veterans is 19% higher compared to adult male civilians.
- Suicide risk among female veterans is 2.5x higher than among female civilians.
- In 2014, veterans who were 18-29 years old had the highest rate of suicides.
Rates of suicide among all veterans who use VA services have remained relatively stable, although rates have gone slightly up among women and slightly down among men. Females in general are less likely than males to use firearms in suicide but that female vets are more likely than female civilians to have access to and use firearms.3
Although many veterans seek and receive help, some still struggle with suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, or death from suicide. The VA noted that 70% of veterans who lost their lives due to suicide had not been connected to healthcare through the VA.4
Access to evidence-based help from physicians, therapists, and addiction specialists can reduce the risk of suicide by treating underlying issues.
United States Military Veteran Suicide
United States military veteran suicide is an ongoing phenomenon regarding the high rate of suicide among U.S. military veterans in comparison to the general civilian public. A focus on preventing veteran suicide began in 1958 with the opening of the first suicide prevention center in the United States. During the mid 1990s, a paradigm shift in addressing veteran suicide occurred with the development of a national strategy which included several Congressional Resolutions. More advancements were made in 2007, when the Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act created a comprehensive program including outreach at each Veterans Affairs Office and the implementation of a 24-hour crisis hotline. PTSD, depression, and combat-related guilt in veterans are often related to suicide as it can be difficult for veterans to transition to civilian life.
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Va Says Veteran Suicide Rate Is 17 Per Day After Change In Calculation
WASHINGTON The Department of Veterans Affairs has altered how it calculates the average number of veteran suicides each day, meaning the 20-per-day statistic widely known and often cited by elected officials has changed to 17.
The VA released its annual National Veteran Suicide Prevention Report on Friday, tracking the changes from year to year. The 2019 report includes data from 2017, the most recent available.
More veterans died by suicide in 2017 than the previous year, the report shows. There were 6,139 veteran suicide deaths in 2017, an increase of 129 from 2016.
However, the new report lists the daily average of veteran suicides at 17, down from the 20 per day reported in previous years. The VA explained that it removed servicemembers, as well as former National Guard and Reserve members who were never federally activated, from its count.
There were an average of 2.5 suicide deaths per day in 2017 among National Guard and Reserve members who were never federally activated, the report shows. The report doesnt include active-duty servicemember suicides. The VA said in a statement the Department of Defense would publish a separate report focusing on those deaths.
This change was necessary because these groups are unique and do not all qualify for the same benefits and services, therefore they require individualized outreach strategies, the VA said in a statement.
The agency claimed there has since been significant improvements.
There Is Hope: Seeking Help
Experiencing a traumatic event and/or developing PTSD can have a tremendous impact on a person’s life. The symptoms of PTSD can make a person feel constantly afraid and isolated. In addition, depression is common following a traumatic event and among people with PTSD.
A person may feel as though there is no hope or escape from their symptoms, leading them to contemplate suicide.
It is important to realize that even though it may feel as though there is no hope, recovery and healing is possible. If you are having thoughts of ending your life or if you know someone who is having these thoughts, it is important to seek help as soon as possible.
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Cox Proportional Hazards Model:
Cox models generate hazards ratios, which represent the relative death rate and can be interpreted in terms of relative risk compared to a reference category. As an example, if females were the reference category, an HR of 2.0 for males would imply that the relative risk of death was twice as high among males as it was among females. Conversely, an HR of 0.5 for males would imply that males had a risk of death half that of females. An HR of 1.0 would indicate that both males and females had a similar risk. 95% confidence intervals were also calculated CIs that overlap 1.0 suggest that the HR is not statistically significant. For each model, multivariate-adjusted HRs were calculated control for the other variables.
Violations of the proportionality assumption were tested for using Schoenfeld and scaled Schoenfeld residuals and global proportional-hazards tests. . The only violation of the proportionality assumption occurred when both males and females were included in the same model. As a result, models were developed separately for each sex.
Are Veterans At A Higher Risk For Suicide
The suicide rate for veterans is 1.5 times higher than that of the general population.4
Comparing the rate among female veterans to non-Veteran adult women, the rate is 2.5 times higher.5 From 2001 to 2014, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs reports an increased suicide rate among women using VA health services from 14.4 per 100,000 to 17.3 per 100,000.6
Suicide rates are especially high among older veterans. According the VA, in 2016, about 58% of all veterans committed suicide were among Veterans age 55 years or older.4
About 20 veterans commit suicide a day, and nearly three quarters are not under VA care.4
Several other factors, in addition to distance, play a role in higher suicide rates. Certain emotional precursors may precede suicide events, including feelings of loneliness, isolation, hopelessness, and depression.8 In a summary of multiple studies, the VA found a variety of factors that may increase the risk of suicide, especially where multiple factors exist, some of these include:9
- Acute psychosocial stressors.
- Higher doses of opioid medications for pain control.
- Mental health conditions like anxiety disorder, manic-depressive disorder, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder , and traumatic brain injury .
- Substance abuse, especially heavy binge drinking.
If you or someone you know needs help dealing with suicidal thoughts, help is available 24/7.
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Trauma Ptsd And Suicide
In a survey of 5,877 people across the United States, it was found that people who had experienced physical or sexual assault in their life also had a high likelihood of attempting to take their own life at some point:
- Nearly 22% of people who had been raped had also attempted suicide at some point in their life. In another study of adolescent girls who had been sexually abused, 46% reported having suicidal thoughts within the last three months.
- Approximately 23% of people who had experienced a physical assault had also attempted suicide at some point in their life.
- These rates of suicide attempts increased considerably among people who had experienced multiple incidents of sexual or physical assault . They also found that a history of sexual molestation, physical abuse as a child, and neglect as a child were associated with high rates of suicide attempts
- The National Comorbidity Survey-Replication found that sexual trauma and non-sexual physical violence were linked to more severe and chronic presentation of PTSD symptoms.
- People with a diagnosis of PTSD are also at greater risk to attempt suicide. Among people who have had a diagnosis of PTSD at some point in their lifetime, approximately 27% have also attempted suicide. Another large-scale survey found that 24% of military personnel diagnosed with PTSD had experienced suicidal thinking within the past year.