Deployments to war zones and combat exposure have no effect on military suicides and fail to explain the increase in self-inflicted deaths that occurred from 2001 to 2008, concluded a new medical study, thereby contradicting previous research.
Military medical researchers on Tuesday published a
paper that claims mental disorders, such as depression and
alcohol abuse — not combat — are to blame for military suicides.
US service members killed themselves at a record pace last year,
with 350 taking their own lives. From 2011 to 2012, the military
suicide rate increased by nearly 16 percent, and anti-suicide
organizations feared that this number could increase as troops
are drawn down in Afghanistan and are “not effectively
integrated into suicide-prevention efforts,” Kristina
Kaufmann, executive director of Code of Support Foundation, told
NBC after the figures were released in January.
And it appears that the rate is continuing to rise: last year, a
service member committed suicide every 25 hours, but in April,
the rate increased to one suicide every 18 hours. The annual
number of suicides last year surpassed the number of troops
killed in Afghanistan and the number of military members who died
in transportation accidents in 2012.
But the authors of the surprising new medical study, which was
financed by the Defense Department and published by the Journal
of the American Medical Association, claim that military members
kill themselves for the same reasons ordinary civilians do.
The researchers said they tracked 150,000 soldiers between 2001
and 2008, and found that those who killed themselves were usually
heavy drinkers, suffering from depression, or had been diagnosed
with manic depression. It remains unclear whether their
deployments or combat exposure prompted their mental conditions —
an important fact that could shed further light on the military’s
effect on its members. A 2011 study published by the
Journal of Psychiatry Research concluded that deployment
increases the likelihood of self-destructive behavior and
psychiatric problems. The report also showed an increase in
mental illness among those in active-duty service since 2005.
But this week’s study found that those who were deployed for
longer than a year had a lower risk of suicide. As a result, the
researchers suggested that rather than seek an early discharge,
depressed soldiers should remain in the military and seek mental
health care — a procedure that could put soldiers’ careers on the
line, but that Col. Charles Engel of the Army Medical Corps
believes would be more effective than an early discharge.
“The answer has to be an effort to approximate civilian
standards of confidentiality,” Engel told Bloomberg News.
“Unless we’re dealing with an imminent risk to combat or a
tactical mission, really we should be using civilians’
But the sharpest increase in the suicide rate occurred after 2008
— a period that the military study failed to examine. Critics
claim that because the analysis ended right at the time that the
suicide level spiked dramatically, it might underestimate the
impact that multiple deployments and traumatic brain injuries may
have on military service members.
“Why would the authors repeatedly insist that there is no
association between combat and suicide?” Dr. Stephen N.
Xenakis, a psychiatrist and a retired Army brigadier general,
told the New York Times. “The careful analysis of bad data
generates poor evidence.”
Republished from: RT