2012 Military Suicide Report

Memorial Day is the day set aside to honor America’s service men who are deceased.  To the families of those who have lost a loved one to military suicide following military service, this day is also a reminder of their loss.  In memory of all service members who are deceased, but especially to those who were lost to military suicide, we thought it fitting to address the issue of military suicide at this time.

In 2011, there were just under 900 members of the military who attempted to kill themselves once and a handful who tried on multiple occasions.  Most of the completed military suicides were by Servicemen and women in the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force (89%), National Guard  (7%) and the Reserves (4%).

Who are the most likely to Commit Military Suicide?

Military suicide members with the highest propensity for suicide were those having a diploma from high school, under 25, white or Hispanic.  Men accounted for 95% of the completed military suicides, however women accounted for over 25% of the attempts of suicide.  Servicemen and women who were divorced were much more likely (55%) to attempt suicide, compared to those who were either married or single.  Over half of the enlisted who completed military suicide had a failed relationship of some kind, with about 47% and 28% of those having the failed relationship in the 30 days prior to their suicide, whereas approximately 73% of the military suicide attempts occurred within 30 days of failed relationship.

Military Suicide Details

Unfortunately, the vast majority of the servicemen and women never told anyone they had a plan to suicide (74%).  Military suicide members who did share their problems did so with friends, spouses or close members of the family.  Over 24% of military suicides involved members who had a track record of drug use or alcohol.  The great majority of failed military suicide attempts usually involved alcohol (64%) or drugs (32%).  The most common method used for completed military suicides were either hangings or with guns.  The most common method used for failed suicide attempts include overdosing on drugs and using a sharp object such as a knife.

Mental Health

Over 55% of military suicides involved members who had no history of mental problems.  Similarly, being physically injured does not seem to be a major causality because of this subgroup there were 13% of military suicides and 29% attempted suicides, considerably lower than the non-physically injured.  Members who took psychotropic medication were much more likely to attempt suicide (43%) or kill themselves (26%) and anti-depressants were the drug of choice.  This comprised 37% of suicide attempts and 22% of military completed suicides.  Of those who died by suicide, under 20% had mood disorders,16% had anxiety problems, 11% had depression and 6% had PTSD. Yet, fewer than 17% of the military suicide members received  psychological treatment within 30 days prior to their completed suicide.  Of all members, 61% of members who got psychological treatment sometime during their time in the military attempted suicide and 40% of those who completed military suicide had a history of mental health treatment during their active duty.

Military Deployment

A small minority of military suicides occurred during the deployments during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  For Afghanistan there were 10% suicides and 2.5% suicide attempts.  When members were deployed to Iraq the  suicide percentages were 6% who killed themselves and 4% suicide attempts during their tour(s) of duty.  However after their tour was over is another story.  Of those who committed military suicide after their time in Afghanistan or Iraq, more than 50% had been deployed to one of these areas.  For members of the military who saw combat 15% completed military suicide and 17% attempted suicide.

History of Problems

A history of legal problems had some bearing on members killing themselves or attempting suicide.  Both for completed military suicide and attempted suicide 18% had an Article 15 proceeding against them.  Civil legal problems were present in 13% of suicides and 7% of attempted suicides.   Members who lost their job occurred in 21% of all suicides and 31% of suicide attempts.  Victims of abuse  accounted for 18% of all suicides and 65% of suicide attempts. This suggests most abuse victims attempted military suicide and are a high risk group.  Perpetrators of abuse committed 13% of the suicides and accounted for 11% of suicide attempts.  It is clear that stressors in civilian life, post-deployment, increase the risk of suicide attempts as well as completed suicides.

Treatment for Depression

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 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 that can result in recovery.  Untreated depression can result in suicide.  Treatment for depression and anxiety can be highly successful.  Call us at 901-682-6136 to schedule an appointment.