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Do trauma and suicide increase an individual’s suicide risk?

A body of research indicates that there is a correlation between many types of trauma and suicide. There are numerous studies that show that traumatic events such as childhood abuse may increase a person’s suicide risk. This includes all types of childhood abuse, such childhood sexual abuse, childhood physical abuse, childhood emotional abuse, abuse suffered at the hands of mentally ill parents, etc.  Similarly, a history of military sexual trauma (MST) also increases the risk for suicide in veterans.  It is clear that trauma and suicide can be fatal.

Veterans exposed to combat

Considerable research has that Veterans who experienced combat trauma, the highest suicide risk is observed in those who were wounded multiple times and/or hospitalized for a wound.  This indicates that the intensity of the combat trauma and suicide are related.  Also, the number of times of exposure increases the likelihood of trauma and suicide risk in Veterans. This study assessed only combat trauma, not a diagnosis of PTSD, as a factor in the suicidal behavior.  There is also reason to believe that the intensity and frequency of trauma and suicide in civilians is similar to that found in veterans.

Do PTSD trauma and suicide increase risk?

The National Comorbidity Survey, a nationally representative sample, showed that PTSD was significantly associated with suicidal ideation or attempts. Not surprisingly, the study also found an association between mood disorders, like depression and suicidal behaviors. A later study using the Canadian Community Health Survey data also found that people diagnosed with PTSD were at higher risk for suicide.  Hence, there is clear evidence that people who experience PTSD type trauma and suicide are at greater risk too.

This should not be surprising because high levels of intrusive, unwanted memories of traumatic events can be extremely disturbing.  Furthermore, most people do not have the skills needed to cope with PTSD symptoms, including the symptoms of trauma and suicide.  For example, trying to suppress or forget the traumatic events just don’t work.  Going night after night without sleep takes its toll, often resulting in increased irritability, low frustration tolerance, and feelings of being helpless, hopeless and overwhelmed.  Combined, these symptoms can form the link between trauma and suicide.

Veterans, suicide risk and PTSD

Other research that studied combat-related PTSD in Vietnam era Veterans found that the most significant predictor of both suicide attempts and recurrent suicidal thoughts were combat-related guilt. Many Veterans experience symptoms of trauma and suicide, such as highly intrusive thoughts and extreme guilt about acts committed during times of war. These thoughts can often overpower the emotional coping capacities of Veterans coping with thoughts of the trauma and suicide.  At the same time, their feelings of guilt may be so intense that they are ashamed to talk about the thoughts of the trauma and suicide, so no one knows how distressed they really are.  Even sub-threshold PTSD symptoms have been shown to be a risk factor for feelings of hopelessness and suicidal ideation in OIF/OEF Veterans.

Because our treatment center relies on evidence based practices, our Intensive Outpatient Program shares many common methods with other successful treatment methods.  The foundation of our treatment program for relies on the principles of the stages of change, cognitive behavioral therapy, solution focused treatment, skills training and identifying repetitive dysfunctional behavioral relationship patterns to promote recovery from depression and other mental health disorders.  In fact, our Intensive Outpatient Program in Memphis, TN that has been proven to be effective in the treatment of major depression, PTSD and suicide prevention in six peer reviewed treatment outcome studies.   Our treatment center provides services to those who need more treatment than one hour a week, but less than 24 hour care, by providing three hours of treatment per day, three to five days per week, in an intensive outpatient setting.  If you or a loved one is showing signs of depression or anxiety, they should be assessed by a trained mental health professional who can help design a treatment plan that can result in recovery.  Treatment for major depression and anxiety can be highly successful.  Call us at 901-682-6136 to schedule an appointment.