In the past the rate of veteran and military suicide has been lower than the suicide rate of the general population. It was assumed that the protective factors against military suicide were that the military only chooses the strongest individuals, both mentally and physically, that these individuals have medical coverage, and are gainfully employed and have a purpose in life with a strong sense of community.

A study was done to assess possible risk factors for military suicide in the Department of in the years 2005 and 2007. The study included the entire military which was comprised of 2,064,183 members in 2005 and 1,981,810 in 2007. The study divided up the members according to the branch of the service they were enlisted in.

The results showed that in 2007 the rates of military suicide were significantly higher across all branches of the service than the rates in 2005. In studying members of the Army in 2005, being deployed to combat areas was associated with a higher suicide rate. This held true among all service members in 2007.

The suicide rate in 2008 for members of the Army was slightly higher than among civilians; 20.2 members of the Army out of 100,000 as opposed to 19.2 civilians out of 100,000. There is no doubt that the stresses of fighting two wars, repeated deployments, PTSD and other illnesses related to combat are contributing risk factors for military suicide. However there are other military suicide risk factors at play that also contribute to suicide attempts and death by suicide among those in the military.

The Department of Defense Suicide Event Report (DODSER) was begun in 2008. Its purpose is to look at and track 250 to 300 different data points per completed military suicide in a systematic way across each Military Department. This includes Active Duty, Reservists and members of the National Guard.

There are many of the same risk factors for military suicide as in the general population.

Risk Factors for Suicide:

  • History of suicide attempts
  • Feeling hopeless and helpless
  • Tenuous family ties
  • History of childhood abuse
  • Family history of suicide
  • Talking about committing suicide
  • History of depression or other mental disorders
  • Alcohol and/or substance abuse problems
  • Tendency to be aggressive or impulsive
  • Feeling isolated and cut-off from others
  • Experienced recent loss, a relationship, job or financial loss
  • Has been dealing with a physical illness
  • Has limited access to health care
  • Has access to lethal methods that could be used

Steps to Take When You Think Someone May Attempt Suicide:

Take Them Seriously – Fifty to seventy-five percent of all those who attempt suicide have told someone close to them about their intention. Heed the risk factors listed above and act immediately to get them help.

Get Them to Accept Professional Help – Find a mental health professional nearby and use your influence and compassion to get them to understand that they need professional help.

Take Immediate Action – This person cannot be left alone. If there are any firearms available to them, remove them. Remove all medications, knives and other sharp objects from their home. Drive them to a walk-in clinic, hospital ER, or psychiatric hospital immediately.

Check on Them Regularly – Any person who has been contemplating suicide needs the support of friends and family. Continue following-up to make sure they are in good company, feel cared for and are getting the help they need on a continuing basis.

Due to repeated deployments and the high use of reservists, we know that many of the people who served our country with honor have returned to civilian life and their jobs.  However, plaqued by the stressors of war, many of these individuals remain at risk for post-military suicide.  Because our treatment for depression relies on evidence based practices, our Intensive Outpatient Program shares many common methods with other successful suicide prevention treatment programs.  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 these disorders 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 for depression and suicide that can result in recovery.  Treatment for depression and anxiety can be highly successful.  Call us at 901-682-6136 to schedule an appointment.